The Netherlands saw 9% of all newly launched food products touting low, no or reduced salt in 2011, compared to just 1% of new products launched in Italy and Germany, 1.4% in Spain, 2% in France, and 3% in the UK.
Globally, low salt label claims declined about 5% in 2010-2011, the market researcher found, and the food industry is understandably wary of introducing new low salt products that don’t live up to consumers’ taste expectations, said Mintel global food and drink analyst Chris Brockman.
“Manufacturers struggled to find workable salt substitutes, forcing many to rapidly pull them from the market,” he said. “Efforts are being made to offer consumers alternatives to sodium. However, existing salt replacements have not caught the imagination of consumers. Consumers are concerned about salt intake, but are not willing to compromise on taste."
However, Europe is still the global leader for low salt product innovation, where products touting low salt content accounted for 35% of the global total last year. On average, low salt claims appeared on just 2% of new products globally, but the Netherlands bucked the trend, driven by a public health campaign that encourages the Dutch food industry to reformulate.
“The Netherlands was higher mainly because of the food industry's Ik Kies Bewust ("I choose consciously") campaign featuring on-pack logos to indicate new or reformulated products that are low in sugar, sodium and saturated fat,” Brockman said.
He added that consumers often perceive low salt to mean ‘less taste’ and this is an ongoing challenge for the food industry. ‘Stealth’ salt reduction is one approach that has seen some success, with brands reducing salt without flagging it on-pack.
“Other brands are also steering clear of the health issue by experimenting with different flavour profiles, such as strong spices and vinegars, to enhance taste while eliminating sodium," Brockman said.