CHICAGO—More than half of Americans are keeping a close eye on their diets, and 15% of those are doing so because of their salt intake, according to a new Mintel report.
According to the “Attitudes Toward Sodium-US-February 2012" report, 44% of U.S. consumers claim that they “always" or “usually" consult the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) and/or ingredient list to assess sodium levels when considering a food purchase. By contrast, 51% “always" or “usually" look at fat content, while 47% inspect sugar levels, and 49% examine calorie counts “always" or “usually" when shopping.
“The relatively high incidence of dieting in the U.S. is one key factor driving demand for low-sodium products," said Molly Maier, senior health and wellness analyst at Mintel. “Our findings indicate that fat and calorie counts are more likely than sodium to influence purchase. Thus, companies may be able to maximize the appeal of low-sodium foods by also showing, where appropriate, that they are low in fat and calories."
Sixty-two percent of U.S. consumers believe manufacturers are responsible for disclosing how much sodium is in their products, whereas just 35% feel the government is responsible for such disclosures. Only 18% see this as the responsibility of retailers.
Interestingly, 46) feel manufacturers should implement sodium restrictions, and 34% feel the government should do so. Customers want to choose for themselves how much sodium they consume and that they generally want to avoid regulation that will limit their food options.
More than half (59%) of respondents “always" or “usually" limit salt consumption when at home, while 44% “always" or “usually" do so when dining at a restaurant.
“This indicates that while restaurant chains can often benefit from sodium reduction initiatives, they are especially important for manufacturers of packaged foods, including those that make sauces, condiments, and other flavor enhancers often used to prepare meals at home," Maier said.
Data revealed a substantial demand for reduced-sodium packaged foods and restaurant items. When it comes to low salt/sodium foods, 59% indicated that they have tried and would use such foods again in the future. An additional 16% have not tried reduced-sodium packaged foods, but would be interested in trying them.
Learn more about sodium reduction efforts in food product development in the Food Product Design Salt/Sodium Content Library.