Campbell Soup backs 'potassium salt' petition: A more consumer-friendly name will ‘advance public health goals’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Campbell Soup backs 'potassium salt' petition

Related tags Potassium chloride Sodium chloride

Campbell Soup has joined a growing number of food manufacturers backing a citizen’s petition from NuTek Food Science asking the FDA to allow ‘potassium salt’ as an alternate name for potassium chloride on food labels.

The FDA’s plans to include potassium as one of the nutrients that must be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel ​(the FDA is also raising​ the DRV for potassium from 3,500mg to an RDI of 4,700mg) - ​coupled with its new sodium reduction targets - ​have focused attention on potassium chloride (KCL), a leading salt replacer.

But its name is putting consumers – who are looking for clean labels and suspicious of ‘chemical-sounding’ ingredients – off, said Campbell Soup, which uses KCL in multiple products, including its iconic condensed soup.

A friendlier name would demystify the ingredient and help the industry achieve the dual goals of lowering sodium and increasing potassium intakes, said Campbell, which filed comments​ with the FDA just before Christmas as the 180-day period in which the agency is supposed to respond to petitions drew to a close.

Use of the term ‘potassium salt,’ as opposed to ‘potassium chloride,’ would increase the likelihood of consumers choosing a lower sodium product’

Along with petitioner NuTek Food Science​ - which has patented a process that suppresses its metallic taste without requiring companies to add expensive flavor masking ingredients – Campbell Soup has conducted consumer research showing that shoppers view ‘potassium salt’ more favorably than ‘potassium chloride.’

Campbell Soup’s online survey of canned soup consumers conducted in October 2016 also showed that consumers said they would be more likely to purchase products made with potassium salt as a replacement for table salt than potassium chloride (although the two are one and the same), said Campbell Soup regulatory affairs director, global R&D, Lisa Thorsten; and senior marketing and IP counsel, Gregory Frantz.

The results… confirmed both of our hypotheses that ‘potassium salt’ was less concerning, and more consumer-friendly term than ‘potassium chloride’ and that use of the term ‘potassium salt,’ as opposed to ‘potassium chloride,’ would increase the likelihood of consumers choosing a lower sodium product.

“We therefore respectfully submit that permitting this alternative name would increase consumer understanding of this widely-used ingredient and advance public health goals​ [to lower sodium and increase potassium intakes]."

Campbell Soup potassium salt survey October 2016

"[The] use of potassium chloride in foods promotes public health and is beneficial to consumers for three principle reasons:

(1) Potassium chloride delivers a salty taste and can often substantially replace sodium chloride as an ingredient, which helps decrease the sodium content of foods;

(2) Potassium is identified in the Dietary Guidelines as an important nutrient of public health concern that most Americans are not consuming in sufficient quantities;

(3) Potassium can help to partially offset the adverse effect of sodium on blood pressure."

Campbell Soup, December 2016 

"In recent years, there has been steady growth in the 'clean label' movement – a preference for short, simple, non-chemical-sounding ingredients that are recognizable to consumers. The term 'chloride' sounds like 'chlorine' to some consumers and therefore has a chemical connotation, despite the fact that the chloride ion in potassium chloride (potassium salt) or sodium chloride (salt) has none of the properties of chlorine."

The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association

Petition is backed by food manufacturers and the CSPI, but opposed by The Salt Institute

NuTek's petition is supported by the CSPI, the North American Meat Institute, the American Bakers Association, Unilever, Campbell Soup and several other manufacturers, but opposed by The Salt Institute​, which said it would open up a can of worms, given that scores of ingredients have 'chemical-sounding' names.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) also urged the FDA to ‘expedite evaluation’ of the petition in its recent comments​ on the agency's sodium reduction targets, adding: 

“Manufacturers need to balance the desire to decrease salt and sodium content with the simultaneous consumer demand for fewer ‘chemical-sounding’ ingredients."

Read more about NuTek's petition HERE​.

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