Americans love sodium, but many consumers are starting to pay more attention to their intake, according to new research from consumer, product and market research company Mintel. The company's recent data shows consumers as more than half (52 percent) are monitoring the amount of sodium in their diets.
The National Restaurant Association and its restaurant members have taken notice of consumer interest in reducing sodium intake. For example, the association held a conference last July dedicated entirely to the issue of sodium. The Nutrient Essentials: Sodium and the Healthy Plate conference featured experts in nutrition, quality assurance, culinary and research and development as well as other industry stakeholders to discuss the choices and challenges related to sodium.
According to Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD), food product introductions, including those at restaurants, featuring a low, no or reduced sodium claim have increased by nearly 115 percent from 2005 to 2008. Consumer awareness and the continued push from public health organizations and consumer advocacy groups suggest that the low-sodium change is gaining steam.
"The rapidly rising evidence in the past several years points out sodium as a major cause of hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney damage and stomach cancer," said David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel. "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."
What are consumers doing about sodium? Mintel sees four main types of responses, including:
  • Twenty-two percent restrict the amount of salt that they add to food, but don't watch the much greater amount of sodium that is in foods and beverages
  • Eighteen percent say that "food and beverages low in sodium are one of the three most important components of a healthy diet"
  • Twenty-six percent 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
  • Thirty-four percent do not pay attention to sodium
Webinar today
Mintel is hosting a free webinar entitled "Sodium: The next trans fat?" today at 2 p.m. Central time (3 p.m. Eastern), featuring Mintel's David Lockwood and Krista Faron, senior analyst. To register, click here.

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