Clean eating is what is making the perimeter of grocery stores a popular spot, but a new report by The NPD Group, a leading global information company, finds that many consumers feel that clean eating can include some processing and packaged foods. NPD’s How Consumers Define Clean Eating report shows that 61% of primary grocery shoppers feel packaged foods are acceptable when eating clean, and 44% of shoppers say some processing is also acceptable.

NPD’s study, which surveyed over 5,000 consumers to understand what clean eating means to them and how it impacts consumption and shopping behaviors, shows that there are several key aspects of clean eating that are more prominent than others.

Generally, clean eaters emphasize items that are absent in foods or beverages versus what they contain. Of most importance to these consumers are foods that do not contain chemicals, preservatives or additives, and no pesticides, and these consumers appear to be adamant about their choices since 80% of clean eaters say this is their lifestyle as opposed to a diet or fad.

People who are core followers of clean eating currently represent only about five percent of primary grocery shoppers, skewing female and younger. While this is a small portion of the population, clean eating may have more staying power than typical diets since consumers view it as a lifestyle. And, some consumers already practice clean eating but may not even know they are following some of the clean eating guidelines. In addition, half of clean eaters have been following this lifestyle for over a year, which suggests that this is a lifestyle that can be sustained and therefore can grow in the coming decades, according to the NPD report.

“Clean eating from a product development standpoint may seem discouraging for CPG manufacturers,” says Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “But the good news is packaged goods can still fit the bill with these consumers and attract them to the center of the store.”