CHICAGO Americans are paying more attention to sodium levels in food, and in response food manufacturers are developing more no-salt or reduced-sodium products, the consumer research firm Mintel said Tuesday.
Recent research indicates that about 52 percent of American consumers are monitoring the amount of sodium in their diets, according to Chicago-based Mintel.
Meanwhile, the number of food products designed to have no-, low- or reduced-sodium levels, has increased 115 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.
The shift is fueled in part by health activists who in recent years have been pushing for the reduction of sodium levels in restaurant fare. Last month, the consumer-advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. accusing the family-dining chain of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in menu items.
Mintel said such cases are raising consumer awareness about the impact sodium in the diet can have on health.
“The rapidly rising evidence in the past several years points out sodium as a major cause of hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney damage and stomach cancer,” said David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel. “Because of this scientific knowledge, mixed with that of global health activists, there is a climate forming for rapid change. We are starting to see this information set into motion with a reduction in sodium on packaged goods and restaurant menus.”
Mintel’s research indicates that about 22 percent of consumers restrict the amount of salt they add to food, but don’t pay attention to the much greater amount of sodium found in foods and beverages.
In addition, 18 percent of consumers say that food and beverages low in sodium are one of the three most important components of a healthy diet.
About 26 percent of consumers said they read labels for sodium and may make some decisions based on the information — though they are not following a sodium-lowering regime, Mintel found.
However, about 34 percent of those surveyed said they don’t pay attention to sodium at all, Mintel said.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]