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Marketing the Benefits of Salt Reduction
By Sharon Natoli
Sodium is an essential mineral in the diet that is necessary for important functions such as regulating water balance and blood volume, and playing a role in muscle contraction.
However, while sodium is an essential mineral, too much can contribute to the development of health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney stones, and may also aggravate some conditions such as asthma and Meniere’s Syndrome.
Sodium is found most commonly in the diet as salt, a compound made up of sodium and chloride. It is also found in a number of additives including MSG, a flavour enhancer and sodium benzoate, a preservative. Natural foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and eggs contain low amounts of sodium while foods such as breads, cheese, frozen meals and sandwich meats often contain much more. Three quarters of the average amount of sodium in the Australian diet comes from processed foods. Salt added during cooking and at the table can also be a significant source for some people.
How Much is Too Much?
The National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that adults have up to 2,300 mg of sodium daily and that people with high blood pressure limit their sodium intake to 1,500mg/day. One teaspoon of salt provides 2,000mg of sodium and most Australians consume much more than this. It is for this reason there has been a drive to lower the sodium content of foods through product reformulation.
Reformulation to lower sodium
For food businesses, sodium reduction can be a challenge due to the many functional roles it plays within a product. Nevertheless, reducing the sodium content of foods can have business benefits including demonstrating a corporate commitment to producing healthier foods, and increasing sales to consumers who are seeking out lower sodium products.
Marketing lower sodium foods
Sodium reduction through reformulation to achieve particular targets can enable certain claims to be made in marketing and on product labels. Below are the options available, as outlined in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
One important regulatory requirement to remember is that when making any claims about sodium or salt, the amount of potassium must also be included in the nutrition information panel.
Sodium and Salt Related Claims as Outlined in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Schedule 4).
No added salt or
no added sodium or
The food contains no added sodium compound including no added salt and the ingredients of the food contain no added salt or sodium compound.
Take care to check all of the ingredients in your product before making this claim, including additives. For example, if mono-sodium glutamate or sodium benzoate are present, this claim cannot be made.
The food contains no more sodium than:
120mg/100g for solid foods
120mg/100ml for liquid foods
Reduced sodium or lite/light*
The food contains at least 25% less sodium than in the same amount of a reference food.
A reference food is considered to be a food of the same type that hasn’t been modified, or alternatively, a food from the same food group that could be considered a relevant dietary substitute.
Reduces blood pressure**
If the food meets the conditions for a ‘low sodium’ claim this high level health claim may be used.
When making this claim, a dietary context statement must be included together with the claim that specifies the effect is part of a diet low in salt or sodium.
*This is called a ‘comparative claim’. When making a comparative claim, it is important to remember to state the identity of the reference food together with the claim. For further details refer to Clause 1.2.7-16 in Standard 1.2.7 of the Food Standards Code.
**This claim is regulated as a ‘high level’ health claim. It is important to note that before making any health claims such as this, a product must pass the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator. Click here for this calculator.
Other marketing considerations
To further support your lower sodium products, you may consider providing additional tips to your customers and target market about following a lower sodium diet. This will help your business or brand create a more meaningful connection with consumers by showing you care about their health. Ways to do this are to employ the services of an accredited practising dietitian to work with your marketing and public relations teams. A good place to look for a dietitian is on the Dietitians Association of Australia website under Find an APD. You may also consider referring to useful information about lowering the intake of sodium, including the information provided by the Heart Foundation or the Better Health Channel. Note it is important to obtain your own regulatory advice before doing this to ensure your marketing activities remain compliant with the requirements of the Food Standards Code.
Sharon Natoli is a speaker, author and advisor helping food businesses prepare for the future by taking action today. She provides understanding and awareness of food trends and health and nutrition insights influencing the future consumer; and her book, Food for a Better Future outlines the three essential ingredients food businesses need to be future ready.