PG Web Extra: Grocers Leverage Desire for Cleaner Labels


The nation’s leading supermarket retailers know that free-from is big business. That’s why they’re moving their own-brand programs into the category, launching sophisticated private brand lines to run shoulders with a growing inventory of clean-label products from name-brand CPG manufacturers. And some are actively guiding their shoppers through the better-for-you landscape.

Here are a few examples:

Kroger: The nation’s largest traditional grocer offers its Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic lines at its more than two dozen banner names across the country. The lines include more than 400 products across categories including bakery, beverages, canned goods, dairy, frozen, meat, produce and snacks. All proclaim to be “Free From 101,” made without 101 artificial ingredients and preservatives on many consumers’ hit lists (see full list below). 

Safeway: In addition to its popular O Organics line, Safeway promotes its in-store SimpleNutrition shelf tag program. Developed and administered by the retailer’s registered dietitians, the programs calls out products that meet specific criteria for being more nutritious food options. Call-outs include gluten-free, organic, sugar free and fat free. 

Giant Eagle: Nature’s Basket is the Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain’s natural and organic brand, encompassing products from meat and products to center store items and even paper goods. Further, the retailer’s in-store dietitians offer gluten-free living tips, including product guidance, recipes and special diets. 

H-E-B: H-E-B Organics is the Texas-based retailer’s product line that promises produce and shelf-stable goods free of GMOs, and meat, poultry and dairy produced without antibiotics or added growth hormones. Additionally, its private H-E-B and Hill Country Fare brands sport dietary icons that call out gluten-free, sugar-free and other clean-label products. 

Schnucks: The St. Louis-based Midwestern regional grocery chain has dedicated gluten-free sections in many of its stores. In fact, the retailer created a gluten-free advisory board, made up of Schnucks customers, that has helped improve and expand the chain’s gluten-free selection. The Schnucks website has a search function allowing consumers to find the nearest stores with significant free-from inventories, by ZIP code.  Further, Schnucks dietitians hold monthly celiac support group meetings, announced through the group’s monthly newsletter. 

Whole Foods Market: Anyone who knows anything about the Austin, Texas-based pioneering natural food grocery chain won’t be surprised that it has some of the highest free-from standards in the business, boasting an extensive list of ingredients not allowed in any products it sells, including hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. Additionally, Whole Foods is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency, committing to GMO labeling all food products in its stores by 2018. The grocer already offers more than 25,000 certified organic products and about 8,500 Non-GMO Project Verified products. 

Enter the Cavewoman

Brittany Chibe has been in the free-from food business for less than a year, and already her granola is attracting the attention of grocery retailers as well as the national media. For Chibe, the founder and owner of Paleo Scavenger, it began as a personal quest.

“I started Paleo Scavenger in June 2014 to help make clean eating easy and more accessible. I’ve been paleo for about two years, and I always struggled to find clean, paleo-friendly snacks at the grocery store. I was on a constant scavenger hunt,” Chibe explained. “So instead of searching for snacks, I turned to my love for baking and made my own. I thought that if I was having this problem, then others must be, too.”

She left a position as a national account sales manager at Schreiber Foods to work on Paleo Scavenger full time. “I started as a cottage operation making my product out of my home kitchen and selling at farmers markets, and in October moved into a commercial kitchen so that I could sell online and at retail,” Chibe said. “I’m now selling at seven local retailers and working through the vendor paperwork with Whole Foods. My goal for 2015 is to partner with a national distributor to get Paleo Scavenger in stores across the country.”

Chibe’s recent appearance on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” Shark Tank segment “kind of came out of nowhere,” she said. “My friend sent me a post that he saw on Facebook about GMA producers looking for a female entrepreneur with a sales background. The description fit me exactly, so I sent in my story and got an immediate response. They asked me for an ‘audibly interesting’ video about my product, so I made up a rap and sent it in. The next day, the producer pitched my video to her bosses and they loved it.”

Chibe was on a flight to New York City that afternoon and GMA the next morning. “The whole thing happened so fast, it was surreal. I still question myself, did that really happen? It was crazy,” she recounted. “I rapped about my granola to [“Shark Tank” host] Barbara Corcoran and she loved it. I walked away with the ‘Shark Tank Your Life’ trophy and major bragging rights. It was a whirlwind!”

101 No-nos

These ingredients, from Kroger’s “Free From 101” list, are typical of those eschewed by products in the free-from category:

  • Acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)
  • Acetylated ester of mono- and diglycerides
  • Ammonium chloride
  • Antibiotics
  • Artificial colors (synthetic and FD&C certified)
  • Artificial flavors
  • Aspartame
  • Astaxanthin
  • Azodicarbonamide
  • Autolyzed yeast extract
  • Bentonite (acceptable in supplements)
  • Benzoates in food
  • Benzoyl alcohol
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Bisulfites
  • Bleached flour 
  • Bromated flour
  • Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)
  • Calcium bromate
  • Calcium disodium EDTA
  • Calcium peroxide
  • Calcium propionate
  • Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
  • Calcium sorbate
  • Caprocaprylobehenin
  • Carmine 
  • Certified colors 
  • Cochineal 
  • Cyclamates
  • Cystine (I-cysteine), as an additive for bread products
  • DATEM (diacetyl tartaric and fatty acid esters of mono and diglycerides)
  • Diglycerides (acceptable in supplements)
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane
  • Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS)
  • Disodium calcium EDTA
  • Disodium dihydrogen EDTA
  • Disodium guanylate (GMP)
  • Disodium succinate
  • Dimethylamylamine (DMAA)
  • EDTA-ethylenedia mine-tetra acetic acid-chelating preservative
  • Erythorbic acid
  • Ester gums
  • Ethanol, ethyl alcohol
  • Ethyl vanillin
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Ethyoxyquin
  • FD&C colors (food dye & color)
  • Glycerol ester of wood rosin
  • Hexa-, hepta- and octa-esters of sucrose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats & oils
  • Hydroxpropyl guar gum
  • Methylene chloride
  • Methyl silicon
  • Modified food starch (acceptable if not chemically modified)
  • Monoglycerides
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Neotame
  • Nitrates/nitrites
  • Oxystearin
  • Parabens
  • Partially hydrogenated oil
  • Polydextrose
  • Potassium benzoate
  • Potassium bisulfate
  • Potassium bromate
  • Potassium hydroxide
  • Potassium metabisulfite
  • Potassium nitrate or nitrite
  • Potassium sorbate (acceptable in supplements only)
  • Propionates (calcium and sodium)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Propylene oxide
  • Propylparaben
  • Saccharin
  • Simplesse
  • Sodium aluminum phosphate
  • Sodium aluminum sulfate
  • Sodium benzoate 
  • Sodium bisulfate
  • Sodium diacetate
  • Sodium ferrocycanide
  • Sodium glutamate
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Sodium nitrate/nitrite
  • Sodium propionate
  • Sodium sterol lactylate
  • Sodium steroyl-2-lactylate
  • Sodium sulfite
  • Solvent extracted oils, as stand-alone, single-ingredient oils (except grapeseed oil)
  • Sorbic acid
  • Sucralose
  • Sucroglycerides
  • Sucrose polyester (Olestra, Olean)
  • Sulfites (Sulfur dioxide)
  • Tartrazine
  • TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Trans fatty acids
  • Vanillin


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