Contributing analyst Simone Baroke argues that while ‘low salt’ may deter adult consumers from buying certain products, the opposite is likely to be the case for parents of young children. And it is only a matter of time before the media lose interest in sugar and its suggested role in obesity, she claims in a post on Euromonitor’s blog.
“The current sugar storm will not last forever – soon another bad boy ingredient will take its place, and it may well be salt,” she wrote.
The food industry has been scrutinised for the salt content of its products – and with good reason; about 75% of salt in the diet is estimated to come from processed foods. However, consumers tend to associate the words ‘reduced salt’ with ‘reduced flavour’, leading salt reduction advocates, like the UK’s Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), to suggest a gradual reduction in salt levels to retune taste preferences to a less salty flavour without consumers’ knowledge.
“With young children, however, the taste issue poses much less of a hurdle,” wrote Baroke. “A palate that has never grown accustomed to high levels of salt requires very little for a pleasing taste experience, and commercial baby food is usually tightly regulated to contain only very small quantities.”
Parents seeking ‘low salt’ foods for kids
She added that parents were very likely to start checking ingredient lists carefully for salt levels, from the moment they are informed of the need to restrict their children’s salt consumption.
“Manufacturers need to act fast if they want to avoid criticism, and now is also the time to prepare their portfolios to include more products for young children explicitly positioned as being low in salt.”
According to UK recommendations, children aged 1-3 should consume no more than 2 g of salt per day, rising to 3 g for those aged 3-5 and a maximum of 5 g for those aged 7-10.
A CASH study carried out in March this year found that 28% of ‘family friendly’ UK restaurant foods aimed directly at children contained more than 2 g of salt per serving. Meanwhile, an Australian study found that children there aged four to eight consumed an average of 5.1 g of salt per day – above the 5 g the World Health Organisation recommends as a maximum healthy amount for adults.
“The message that children eat far too much salt and that it primes them for serious health conditions in the future is a media frenzy waiting to happen,” said Baroke. “Research shows that the problem is widespread, and that packaged food is the prime culprit.”