The US Food and Drug Administration recently issued guidance to reduce the average daily sodium intake by 12% over the next few years by encouraging food manufacturers and foodservice companies to cut back their use of salt in products. Food market research by The NPD Group finds that US consumers are more concerned about the amount of sugar in their diets than they are about their sodium intake.
Half of US consumers, 18 years and older, are trying to get less sugar in their diets compared to 36% who want to reduce their salt intake, according to NPD’s Health Aspirations & Behavioral Tracking Service. However, sodium consumption concerns vary by age, and the degree of concern doesn’t gradually increase as the age range advances. While 45% of consumers, 55 and older, want to decrease the amount of sodium in their diets, only 34% of consumers, ages 45 to 54, are concerned about sodium intake. Of the 35 to 44 and 25 to 34 age groups, 25% and 30%, respectively, are trying to get less sodium in their diets. Of the youngest adult age group, ages 18 to 24, 33% are concerned about their sodium intake.
When it comes to the Nutrition Facts label on the back of food packaging, sugar ranks at the top of what adult consumers look for on the label. Of adults 18 and older, 56% look for sugar. Consumers look for calories after sugar on the label; 45% look for calories. Sodium ranks third, with 38% of adult consumers searching for sodium content.
“Regardless of the available nutritional information and dietary guidelines, consumers choose to focus on what they deem important,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at NPD. “Eating habits are difficult to change unless a change is needed because of a health condition. When food manufacturers and foodservice operators are able to reduce the sodium in foods and still make them taste as good, they will play a major role in reducing US consumers’ salt intake.”