Sodium Reduction at Nestle

November 17/Denver/Health & Medicine Week -- Nestle Prepared Foods Company has announced a comprehensive plan to decrease the sodium content in its products by another 10% from reductions made earlier this decade.

This major initiative will carry through 2015 and includes the company's popular Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets brands, which will undergo gradual but steady recipe changes in order to bring down sodium levels without impacting taste.

Brad Alford, chairman and CEO of Nestle USA, said, "We're dedicated to helping people improve their overall wellness by providing convenient, wholesome and delicious foods. Adjusting our sodium levels is part of this broader effort and an initiative we've been working on steadily for years. Our goal moving forward is to continue to reduce sodium gradually, while creating ever-more wholesome and delicious foods that contribute to healthier lifestyles. That's what we mean by 'Good Food, Good Life.'"

New Ingredients, Classic Flavors
The most recent example of the company's ongoing efforts to provide sound nutrition balanced with great taste are Stouffer's Farmers' Harvest meals, to be available nationally by year's end. The Farmers' Harvest portfolio includes three new family size meals and seven new individual servings of classic but updated favorites like Macaroni & Cheese and Lasagna.

Taste is assured by the use of high-quality ingredients such as sea salt, olive oil and real cheese. Whole grains are featured in eight of the recipes while four of the individual meals feature half a cup of vegetables. (The 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 2.5 cups of vegetables each day; one serving equals half a cup.) Sodium content for these 10 varieties ranges from 660-950mg (28-40% DV [Percent Daily Value]).

Alford added, "We developed Farmers' Harvest after listening closely to consumers. These days, more and more, people realise the importance of eating more whole grains, more vegetables. Of course, they don't want to give up flavour or enjoyment at mealtimes. Farmers' Harvest lets them have both."

Updating a Classic
Modernising Macaroni & Cheese is another way that Nestle has improved the nutritional profile and sodium content of its offerings, while still assuring taste. First introduced in 1954, the company's top-selling Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese is now available in a variety made with whole grain, introduced in the Farmers' Harvest range.

In addition, classic Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese has decreased sodium levels of its 20oz. and 12oz packages from 920mg per serving to 820mg per serving (from 38% DV to 34% DV, an average decrease of 10%) since 2005. The average sodium level for the entire range of Stouffer's meals is now at 876mg (36.5% DV).

The changes to sodium content were made gradually, since consumer research consistently has shown that consumers often associate sodium reduction with reduced flavor. With this approach of stepwise, moderate reductions, Nestle has managed to avoid negative reactions as well as helping consumers gradually adapt their taste for salt, making their choices more likely to last.

Alford said, "We've been able to consistently reduce sodium and keep the same great taste by working closely with our chefs. We look at the total recipe and ask 'Where can we infuse more flavor?' so that when we take the sodium out over time, consumers don't notice the difference. This way, they can adapt easily and enjoyably."

Continuous Improvements
Stouffer's is not the only brand within the Nestle Prepared Foods Company roster to gradually decrease sodium levels over the years. Lean Cuisine was introduced to the American marketplace in 1981 with 10 products; average sodium levels were then at or above 1,000mg. Today, Lean Cuisine offers 123 varieties with an average sodium level of 606mg (25% DV).

Within the Lean Cuisine line, 15 Spa Cuisine and eight new Market Creation items all contain half a cup of vegetables (2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 2.5 cups of vegetables each day; one serving equals half a cup). Some 15Lean Cuisine items are made with 100% whole grain pasta, and 10 varieties of Lean Cuisine feature seafood, which provides an excellent source of omega-3.

Alford concluded, "We believe what makes Nestle special is our tremendous scope of talent and expertise. We have teams of culinary professionals who help us create authentic, flavourful dishes. We also have deep scientific knowledge that we use to establish Nutrition Foundations for our key brands. Together, this enables us to offer American favorites that deliver delicious taste and thoughtful nutrition in every bite."

From the November 29, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition