Less is more: labels are getting shorter and shorter

    Less is more: labels are getting shorter and shorter

    The latest arrival is the potato "with only three ingredients" against the ten (starting from lactose, sugars and glutamate) of the most flavored. But the ranks of short-label food products grow up everyday more.

    «After the trend of organic and that of foods "without", that is, without lactose, gluten and so on, in the food sector the trend of few ingredients is becoming more and more popular. So much so that some companies even emphasize it on the packaging », he confirms Francesco Morace, sociologist and president of the international research institute Future Concept Lab in Milan. «A trend that responds to need for clarity and transparency by a consumer more and more aware. and it is also a cultural fact: like the Japanese, today many adopt the philosophy of “less is more”, less is more, an antidote to over-choice, to too many variations on the market that only create confusion ».

    The imperative of 2021
    The trend is worldwide, as evidenced by the forecasts of Whole Foods, leader in the distribution of organic products in the USA: the watchword for 2021 will be an increasingly reduced list of ingredients and transparent. Although to tell the truth the trend towards the "short label" rests its foundations in the past. The American essayist had thrown them about ten years ago Michel Pollan, which in his book In defense of food (Adelphi, € 20) recommended "Go shopping with great-grandmother": to look for products recognizable in the composition, with traditional ingredients. Labels full of abstruse names, which correspond to a too cumbersome presence of chemistry: additives, preservatives, dyes and so on.

    Not all is useless
    But is it possible to give up these "extra" ingredients, until yesterday considered essential to guarantee conservation and palatability of increasingly handled foods? "Be careful not to make a bundle of all the grass," warns the food technologist Giorgio Donegani. "Additives should not be demonized, but every time we have to ask ourselves if and what they are for. Sure antioxidants are indispensable for prolonging storage, while the dyes you can very well do without, as well as those flavor enhancers added to mask the poor quality of raw materials. If a juice is made mostly of water, an attempt will be made to make it more appealing with the addition of dyes, while a tortellino almost exclusively filled with breadcrumbs will need an "injection" of artificial flavor with glutamate ».

    Quality first of all
    Yeah, the quality is the central question, and it goes without saying that in the short label products, whether it is biscuits or stock cubes, the raw materials must be of the highest order. But good quality is enough to guarantee, for example, the correct storage of these foods? "In the majority of cases, yes," Donegani replies. «Thanks to advanced processing techniques that make it possible to simplify the compositions and lower the quantity of some ingredients. With the cold chain, for example, it was possible greatly reduce the salt in cured meats. While the modified atmosphere processes help to avoid bacterial contamination and extend the life of the product without the need for preservatives. In short, companies invest and we consumers must get used to spending a little more if we want to eat healthy ».

    The ok from nutritionists
    Speaking of health, the new fashion of the short label breaks through an open door among nutrition experts. Luca Speciani, doctor and nutritionist, author of several books on the subject, points his finger above all on all industrial variants of sugar, one of the protagonists of long labels. «Whether it is corn syrup or glucose, dextrose or glucose, sugar is present in many even apparently healthy products such as muesli. And today we know that this substance is in the dock not only as a cause of the obesity epidemic, but also because it is addictive and causes inflammation in the body that causes many diseases. Let's not talk about the fructose, which promotes hepatic steatosis and hyperglycemia. Other additives, along with pesticides, instead they disturb the functionality of the endocrine glands and in the long run they attack our health ».

    Also according to Speciani, to feel really good we should limit ourselves to shopping in the "fresh" sector of the supermarket, avoid like the plague the whole area of ​​ready-made or elaborate dishes e prefer, among packaged products, those with a short label.

    But how do we put it with the taste? Can a product made with few ingredients, albeit excellent, satisfy the palate of those who have been consuming "artificial" foods, rich in sugar and salt, for years? "It's just a matter of habit», Observes our specialist again. «I always tell my patients that in just 15 days without sugar they learn to appreciate all the nuances of a more natural food. In the end, we are all hunters and gatherers, agriculture occupies only a small part in the history of humanity and our palate quickly recognizes the good things of the earth. Which, moreover, detoxify us».

    The bio was a precursor
    Clean products, few ingredients, no additives. There is a world, that of biological food, where simplicity and authenticity have always gone hand in hand. "At the beginning, even, the rustic, wholemeal product was considered to be at the top, perhaps even unattractive like certain biscuits as hard as stones", he comments Robert Pinton, secretary of AssoBio and a leading figure in the sector.

    «The somewhat punitive attitude prevailed at the time, but it was also a question of a low technological level of the companies. Over time, also to satisfy consumer requests, even the organic has become more sophisticated, ranges of ready meals and snacks have been proposed, and so hedonists and gourmets have found bread for their teeth. And this too has been the secret of the industry's success. Today that our palate is refined and the mind demanding, as befits a consumer of the third millennium, it is worth welcoming products to short label. And, if they are organic, so much the better ».

    Ideas for simplicity in the kitchen

    The chef Jamie Oliver he was the first to take up the challenge and in his book 5 ingredients (Tea, € 29) he offers simple dishes, from appetizers to desserts. "The simple way of cooking with a few ingredients, those that we normally find in the pantry, also helps to get to the stove with more enthusiasm", he assures Sonia Peronaci, digital cook. Try, for example, a salmon fillet baked in foil, with cherry tomatoes, herbs and capers. Or a risotto with cheese and pepper, ready in 15 minutes. You will find that the taste gains.

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