Ethics Case Study: Clean Label

Ethics Case Study: Clean Label

November 9, 2016
Annette Maggi
Business SkillsTrends

Consider this scenario: Your retail company is launching a line of private label products using no artificial colors or flavors and no chemical preservatives to capitalize on the clean label consumer trend. They are planning a huge promotion with launch of the line, including in-store endcaps, online marketing, and media. The dietitian team is being asked to develop a strategy for promotion of the products through your programs and services.

This is a scenario retail dietitians face frequently as your role relates to solution selling to the shopper and increasing the profits of your company. At the same time, today’s consumer has an expanded definition of health and wellness moving beyond a products saturated fat, sodium or calorie contents to where it was grown and how it was produced. These situations bring to light the fine line of working as a business person within the dietetics professional code of ethics.  

The code of ethics dictates that RDs practice based on evidence-based principles and current information and present reliable and substantiated information in their work with consumers. Applying these parameters to defining the retail RD’s role in our clean label product line promotion, there are key questions to first consider, including:

  • Is there consistent, reliable science supporting a health benefit of products without artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives or fewer ingredients?  
  • Are there federal labeling regulations that apply to messaging on this product line? 
  • What is the nutrition profile of the products compared to their traditional counterparts?  
  • What consumer insights does your company have on the shopper seeking this type of product?  

With a lack of scientific support for a health benefit, it’s essential to build communications, messaging, signage and on-package claims around factual statements that are truthful and not misleading to comply with the code of ethics. This might include statements touting a lack of artificial colors or flavors or a specific number of ingredients to which the line is limited. The new products can be showcased in cooking classes for those seeking to limit specific ingredients, but messaging cannot suggest a health benefit. Media spots can be built to promote the idea that consumers care about these topics and your retailer cares about consumers so seeks to meet their needs.  

In an ideal situation, the retail RD would be involved in discussions when the brand is being conceptualized.  This allows you to stress the importance of creating a line with a strong nutrition profile in addition to cleaner ingredient decks, providing a more robust communication platform once the products launch.

This case study shows that the retail dietitian can continue in her role as a solution seller while still maintaining your professional code of ethics.