Reformulation by stealth: Just 2% of new launches in salty snacks make overt sodium reduction claims

Messages such as 'hint of salt' are more appealing to most consumers than blatant sodium reduction or low sodium claims, claims Tate & Lyle

The vast majority of sodium reduction activity in the US food industry is now being conducted by ‘stealth’ in order to avoid alienating shoppers, according to Tate & Lyle.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (click HERE), T&L senior category manager, health & wellness Nancy Gaul said that in snacks in particular, “Stealth sodium reductions far exceed overt reductions [where the change is communicated prominently on pack].”

Terms such as ‘a hint of salt’ are more appealing than low/reduced sodium claims

While most consumers claim to be trying to reduce sodium, and all major food companies have invested significant time and resources to sodium reduction initiatives, shouting 'now with less sodium!' on pack is not a winning strategy for food marketers, claimed Gaul.

(See new data from NPD Group about consumer attitudes to sodium reduction HERE.) 

Indeed, just 2% of new launches in crackers, potato chips, and tortilla chips; 5% of new launches in popcorn; and 11% of new launches in snack nuts feature overt low/reduced sodium claims, added Gaul, although the overall percentage of new products in the US retail market featuring such claims has actually risen from 2.1% in 2010 to 4.5% in 2014.

However, there has been a recent trend to use terms such as ‘a hint of salt’ on pack, which is seen as more appealing to consumers, she said.

FDA is considering voluntary sodium reduction targets

Despite the concern expressed by many manufacturers over building a business case for sodium reduction in light of consumer indifference, the pressure to reduce sodium remains as intense as ever, with the FDA now considering issuing voluntary targets (click HERE), added Gaul.

Phrases such as 'a hint of salt' are more consumer-friendly than overt low- or reduced-sodium claims

“We believe sodium reduction ingredient sales will double by 2018.”

Sunkist research shows adding lemon zest and juice can enable significant sodium reduction in some savory dishes

The webinar coincided with the release of research from citrus marketing cooperative Sunkist Growers showing that a combination of lemon zest and juice can help reduce sodium in many savory dishes from soups and sauces to meat & poultry dishes more effectively than juice or zest alone.

Consumer taste tests conducted by Master Chef Karl Guggenmos, WACS, AAC and Chef Michael Makuch from Johnson & Wales University, showed that consumers preferred recipes made with reduced salt and added lemon juice and zest to the original full-salt recipes.

Commenting on the findings, Christine Weiss, RD, told FoodNavigator-USA: “It’s well known in the culinary world that lemon peel can help restore flavor in some recipes when you reduce salt.

"But I don’t think many chefs are aware that adding lemon zest during cooking and then adding lemon juice at the end [as it can alter acidity levels or create discoloration if you add it earlier] can make a big difference.”

Click HERE and HERE for more details.

Click HERE to read about Tate & Lyle’s Soda-Lo salt microspheres - which which deliver a disproportionately salty taste for their size by maximizing surface area relative to volume. 

Tune into the IFT webinar: Navigating the Ingredient Landscape: How Trends Impact Consumer Purchase Decisions

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