Taste question mark hangs over low-salt products

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 24th August 2009

Low-sodium brands may struggle to gain traction with consumers as recipe changes affect a product’s taste, a leading US nutritionist said on Friday.

With research into US consumers claiming that more shoppers are paying attention to the amount of salt they eat, food manufacturers are stepping up efforts to launch no- or low-sodium products.

Just last week, Heinz unveiled a tomato ketchup line marketed as containing ‘no salt’, while Campbell Soup Co. launched its lower-sodium namesake soup.

However, Roger Clemens, professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy, told just-food that certain sections of the population, particularly older consumers, have not been keen on the taste of products containing less sodium.

“Several large manufacturers have launched many low-sodium and no-sodium products for the past two decades. None of the products has gained consumer acceptance for flavour. Perhaps, the recent launches of low-sodium foods will change that sensory acceptance,” Clemens said.

“However, the sensory experience of lower sodium foods is difficult to accept, particularly among the more mature consumer. The lower sodium product is a sensory experience that is slow to develop in this population, yet more acceptable to some of the younger age groups.”

Campbell said the use of sea salt in its soup “reduced the level of sodium and kept the “great taste people have loved for more than 100 years”. Cutting the level of sodium is, the company insisted, “a strategic priority” for the business.

Nevertheless, Clemens insisted sodium remains an “essential nutrient” for the body and food manufacturers need to consider its benefits when reformulating their products.

“The bottom line is that sodium has many functions in our bodies and in food products. Approaches to lower sodium in food products must consider these functions, including nutritional quality, product safety, and ultimately, sensory acceptance.”

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