Could sodium be the next trans-fat?

Posted by Isobel Drake on 12th August 2009

Concern about salt intake is gaining steam and increased consumer understanding about the impact of high sodium in their diets is encouraging manufacturers to strip salt out of their products wherever possible.

New data from Mintel in America shows consumers are starting to pay more attention to their intake, with more than half (52%) now monitoring the amount of sodium in their diets.

Meanwhile, food product introductions containing a low, no or reduced sodium claim have increased by nearly 115% from 2005 to 2008, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD). Consumer awareness and the continued push from public health organisations and consumer advocacy groups suggest that the low-sodium change will continue building momentum in a similar manner to that seen in the push to cut trans fats from diets.

“The rapidly rising evidence in the past several years points out sodium as a major cause of hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney damage and stomach cancer,” David Lockwood, Director of Consumer Insights at Mintel, noted. “Because of this scientific knowledge mixed with that of global health activists, there is a climate forming for rapid change. We are starting to see this information set into motion with a reduction in sodium on packaged goods and restaurant menus.”

The market researchers have picked up four main types of consumers when it comes to monitoring sodium in the diet:

* 22% restrict the amount of salt that they add to food, but don’t watch the amount of sodium that is already in foods and beverages
* 18% say that “food and beverages low in sodium are one of the three most important components of a healthy diet”
* 26% read labels for sodium, and may make some decisions based on this info, but they are not following a regimen to control sodium in their diet
* 34% do not pay attention to sodium

The research suggested craving for salt could be lowered over time, with three out of four respondents on a sodium-restricted diet claiming they “do not miss the salt.”