Low-sodium ingredient products have received a lot of attention recently, as mainstream media have begun to cover growing, nationwide efforts to reduce sodium in consumer food products. One such report covered by the Institute of Medicine on strategies to reduce sodium intake in the United States received widespread coverage. The report was a response to growing concern that Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium in their food, far exceeding public health recommendations.
Sodium reduction efforts have focused on processed foods in CPG manufacturing channels, as well as in food service. Nationwide campaigns like the National Salt Reduction Initiative, led by New York City, are attracting major food manufacturers who want to reduce sodium levels in their products ahead of any possible regulation by the FDA. All of this attention has created new opportunities for ingredient marketers who have low-sodium ingredient technologies and products. Several major ingredient companies have told us that they have seen significant increases in sales of their low-sodium product offerings.
While there is general concern among consumers about how much sodium they consume, this concern is not being reflected through actual consumer buying behavior in the marketplace. The NPD Group recently reported that the level of sodium concern is not as high as it was two decades ago, and the number of consumers eating low-sodium foods has steadily declined. This gap between aspiration and actual buying behavior represents a difficult marketing challenge for both manufacturers and ingredient producers.
In the end, consumer behavior will drive the marketplace for low-sodium products. Possible regulation could have an impact on short-term new product introductions, but consumers will ultimately decide how much salt they really want in their food.