Pressure to ensure customer taste preferences are continually met for leading breakfast cereal brands is a hindrance to achieving minimal salt levels, and an sector wide push is required to achieve this objective, claims Kellogg.
Yesterday Kellogg announced a cut in the amount of salt in its Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes by 30 per cent.
Marta Baffigo, director of public affairs for Kellogg’s Europe, said that the company has long been listening to nutrition policy leaders about the impact of salt reduction but that it has taken a gradual approach to reformulation so that people do not notice any difference in taste in its well-known breakfast cereals brands.
Kellogg produces two cereals with no added salt, and when asked whether the manufacturer could apply the same formulation across its entire range, Baffigo said it is easier to launch a product onto the market that customers have no established preferences for that it is to reformulate a familiar tasting brand.
She told BakeryandSnacks.com that Kellogg has plans to reduce the salt content of its cereals even further once it finds an effective replacement ingredient but she argues that the inherent risk in such a move is that its most loyal customers might switch to a rival brand with higher salt content to ensure their taste expectations were met.
And she calls for all European breakfast cereal manufacturers to fully engage in the salt reduction process so that such as scenario would not occur.
Baffigo said that this latest salt reduction move was not in response to a programme on UK television last October, which claimed that a 30g bowl of Kellogg’s cornflakes has more salt than a bag of Walkers Ready Salted crisps.
She said that a reformulation involving a 30 per cent salt reduction requires a huge level of investment in terms of time and costs by its R&D team and was, in fact, many months in the planning and part of its continuing salt reduction programme, which is now in its 11th year.
She said this commitment has resulted in reductions, since 1998, of at least 50 per cent in salt content across its brands in Europe.
The Channel 4 TV programme Dispatches was followed by an accusation from the British Heart Foundation claiming cereal manufacturers were misleading parents about high levels of salt, sugar and fat in their products.
A new report from the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) showed reformulation as a major priority for the food industry – not just to reduce salt but for saturated fat and sugar, and to boost vitamin levels too.
Across the industry, some 21 per cent of companies said in a survey in 2008 that their reformulation plans were continuing. Eight two per cent of CIAA members responded in the affirmative to the same question.
In general, bigger companies appear to be most advanced on reformulation, CIAA said, but the movement is now spreading to companies of all sizes.