Sodium reduction trend to gain momentum in 2010, says Mintel

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Market research organization Mintel has predicted that sodium reduction in packaged foods will become a clear trend in 2010 as food manufacturers and health organizations take the lead.

High-sodium diets have been shown to contribute to heart disease, yet the US Department of Agriculture has said that the average American consumes 4,000mg of sodium a day, as opposed to the maximum recommended daily amount of 2,300mg. And it is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of sodium in the average US diet comes from packaged foods.

Although pressure is building on US policy makers, no action has been taken to force sodium out of foods – a move that would present the food industry with significant challenges in terms of taste acceptability among consumers, as well as in replacing the functional attributes of salt, such as its preserving qualities or as an inhibitor in the leavening process.

Even though excessive sodium consumption has filtered into the consumer consciousness, Mintel predicts that the low salt trend is one that will be more slowly adopted by consumers, even as manufacturers start slashing the ingredient from their products.

Mintel’s leading new products expert Lynn Dornblaser said that the key difference between this and other trends toward healthier eating is that "sodium reduction is being pushed by food companies and health organizations, not by consumers."

Even so, the organization predicts that sodium reduction is “poised as the next major health movement” ​and is “finally ready to take hold.”

Early movers

Several food manufacturers have already started to reduce the amount of sodium in their products. ConAgra, for example, set an across the board sodium reduction target of 20 percent by 2015 last month.

Unilever also announced a sodium reduction strategy in April, but instead of pledging a percentage reduction in salt levels, Unilever went for a more complex approach.

It aims to reduce salt levels down to the WHO maximum recommendation of 5g (about 2000mg sodium) a day by 2015. To measure salt reduction by this target Unilever has said it will assess the contribution of its products to the daily salt intake of consumers and adjust salt levels accordingly.

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