Associations between high sodium intake and raised blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular disease, are accepted. Sodium reduction provides challenges in terms of taste, but governments, retailers & companies are driving efforts to reduce salt intake. Direct or indirect marketing options exist, either by labelling health benefits or by gradually reformulating to maintain taste without alerting consumers. Significant opportunities now exist for companies to reduce sodium using new ingredients.
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Consumers are aware of salt intake issues, but place greater emphasis on avoiding sugar and fat. Most consumers can reduce salt added in cooking/at the table, but have little understanding of how much salt they consume in packaged food. Changes to food labelling may highlight this issue. A gap in awareness among consumers aged 15-34 years exists, which could be targeted, as well as marketing towards parents with young children.
Manufacturers communicating with trade associations/government bodies to reformulate for reduced sodium must have clear, open dialogue to attain success and effort recognition, and should reformulate gradually. Always, taste should be key in the marketing mix.
Initiatives for reducing sodium depend on whether governments are involved. Reduced sodium products are growing quickly in Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain and Argentina, while the UK and the US are following a different approach. Since 2007, Chinese and Indian sodium consumption volumes have increased to a greater extent than in any other countries, along with their increased packaged food consumption.
Products marketed as “reduced in sodium” are not widespread, and available mainly in larger outlets, so consumer education may be important. Unusually coloured labels, eg blue, may prevent low sodium products being purchased if consumers in a hurry are not already confident that the taste is maintained in these product options.
Between countries, identical product may be more or less salty, due to local taste preferences and also government activity. Most sodium is present in bakery, but Asia Pacific consumes it within sauces and condiments. Opportunities exist for companies to develop products in one country and then introduce them in another, but careful decisions should be made in marketing lower sodium products, for example, introducing line extensions or unobtrusive reformulations.