PhotoMany consumers are becoming more health-conscious when it comes to what they eat and shop for, and companies are adapting to keep their customers interested and engaged.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that one such company, Caribou Coffee, is banning the use of artificial ingredients in its products. The company states that the measure represents a step in the right direction towards its “clean label” approach.

“When it comes to coffee, people deserve a clean break from the fake stuff. Which is why we are committed to pursuing only real ingredients in our handcrafted drinks,” the company states on its site.

“At Caribou Coffee, Clean Label means that our drinks are not made with artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, MSG or high fructose corn syrup. Our reason is simple: we believe that real ingredients taste better.”

Natural ingredients

On its website, Caribou lists dozens of ingredients that it has refused to incorporate in its beverages, although the company says that they are present in “other coffee drinks.”

Many of the components sound distinctly scientific, such as sulfur dioxide and butylated hydroxytolune, but others may be recognized as types of sugar or artificial dyes. Some industry experts have stated that moving away from these ingredients makes good business sense.

“Almost all consumers are looking for, at least to some level, foods that are fresh, real and less-processed. That’s the holy grail for consumers right now,” said Laurie Demeritt, a chief executive at the Hartman Group, a consumer research firm specializing in food and beverages.

Finding substitutes for these ingredients has proven to be a difficult task, but Caribou says that it has done its best to find natural alternatives. For example, the company has replaced some of its artificial sugars with monk fruit extract to add sweetness to products. However, executives point out that finding one or two alternatives isn’t enough to satisfy their goals.

“It’s not just one or two pieces that we wanted to do. We are the hometown brand in Minnesota, but we are not the biggest in the [coffee] market. But our goal is to be the best,” explains senior director of product innovation Jenifer Hagness.

Higher cost of doing business

While moving to more natural products is sure to be attractive to some consumers, the company admits that doing so has translated to higher business costs.

Officials have said that the company will be absorbing much of that added cost, but some of it may trickle down to consumers. The question may eventually be whether or not consumers are willing to pay extra to satisfy their cravings for product integrity.

 “There is definitely a higher cost associated [with the ingredients], but we are doing as much as we can internally right now to stay cost neutral apart from inflation,” said Hagness.


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