On the Street: Sodium Sapping at Kraft and Pepsi

March 18 and March 22/Northfield, Ill., and Purchase, N.Y./Chicago Daily Herald and Associated Press Financial Wire -- Kraft Foods said it will cut the salt in its products sold in North America by an average of 10% over the next two years as food makers try to appeal to health-conscious consumers. Kraft said the move will reduce the sodium in Oscar Mayer Bologna by 17% and Easy Mac Cups by 20%. This comes on top of other cuts it has made in sodium levels in recent years. Many other food makers -- like Campbell Soup Co. -- have cut the salt in their foods to appeal to shoppers who are increasingly tracing their health to what they eat.

Likewise, PepsiCo Inc. plans to cut the sodium found in each serving of its key brands by one-fourth in five years, as the industry deals with pressure from the government and health-conscious shoppers who want more options.

The maker of Frito-Lay chips and Pepsi drinks announced several nutrition goals at the start of a two-day investor conference.

The company also set two goals for the next 10 years: to cut the average added sugar per serving by 25% and saturated fat per serving by 15%, in addition to adding more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy into its array of products.

Many health leaders have urged food makers to reformulate their products to reduce salt. First Lady Michelle Obama has made the fight against childhood obesity a top priority. She has asked the nation's largest food makers to "step it up" and put less fat, salt and sugar in foods.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi told investors that shoppers are focusing more on value amid the recession and on improving their health. She said governments around the world are exerting pressure to improve nutrition, but the company is not waiting for mandates.

"So we're off doing our thing because the consumer is shifting," she said. The company already announced it would remove full-calorie, sweetened drinks from schools worldwide by 2012. Both PepsiCo, the world's second-biggest soft drink maker, and No. 1 player Coca-Cola Co. adopted guidelines to stop selling sugary drinks in U.S. schools in 2006.  

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