Industry should shoulder salt reduction responsibility, say consumers in Ajinomoto survey
03 Mar 2022 --- An Ajinomoto survey reveals that a large majority of consumers recognize various health benefits associated with reducing their sodium intake – from health maintenance to illness prevention to increased longevity.
Despite this recognition, they do not see managing sodium intake as their responsibility, underscoring the need for manufacturers and retailers to proactively address this public health issue through wide-ranging reformulations.
The Sodium Alternatives and Long-Term Solution (SALTS) Survey was conducted across seven global markets in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific to understand consumers’ attitudes towards sodium and identify opportunities to develop partnerships and tools to reduce sodium consumption overall.
“Successfully driving sodium reduction will require cooperation across food and beverage companies, national governments, and health professionals, with the ultimate goal to encourage diets that are nutritious, taste great and meet sodium targets,” remarks Dr. Tia Rains, VP Customer Engagement & Strategic Development at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition North America.
“There is an opportunity here,” she continues. “If companies make nutritious food taste delicious at a good price point, consumers will buy them, and then companies will make more of these healthier options leading to improved diets and ultimately, a benefit toward public health.”
Awareness doesn’t lead to action
According to the survey conducted by the global monosodium glutamate (MSG) manufacturer, 64% of consumers know that eating too much sodium is bad for their health, yet only 37% actually pay attention to how much they consume.
Still, the surveyed consumers indicate they would prefer their grocery store not sell high-sodium foods.
This point is particularly salient, as the salt content of many popular shelf staples – such as plant-based meat products – have been found to be “unnecessarily high,” according to research. Other studies have singled out the US and China as the highest salt culprits for processed meat and fish.
Overall, 68% of consumers wish that healthier food options were more affordable. However, consumers today still prioritize the nutrient content of a product – alongside the inclusions of vegetables, protein and fruit – above sodium reduction.
In the US, the top three factors for considering what to eat are the amount of sugar, vegetables and protein.
Strategies for switching out salt
In theory, Ajinomoto says that shifting the responsibility of reformulation over to food brands is reasonable – considering that when something is not available, behavior change is inevitable.
The challenge is that consumers greatly perceive low-sodium foods as bland and tasteless, with the majority (55%) prioritizing taste above all else when deciding what to eat.
This indicates higher demand for R&D surrounding clean label solutions that elevate savory food profiles.
Ajinomoto believes that salt reduction can be achieved by using taste sensations other than saltiness, such as through umami, enhancing flavors and aromas with spices, and increasing taste contrast with sourness.
The company highlights that the umami seasoning MSG – which has overcome its negative health reputation of the past – has two-thirds less sodium than table salt and can be used in the place of some salt to reduce the sodium in a dish by up to 61% without compromising flavor.
Other salt-slashing ingredients unveiled over the last year include Salt of the Earth’s seaweed sodium reduction solution and chickpea flavor enhancer.
And last August, nutrition groups worldwide urged the F&B industry to replace table salt with a reduced-sodium, added-potassium substitute – deemed “a simple swap.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
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