The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium every day. These levels are nearly 50% higher than the 2,300 mg limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Both children and adults follow a similar trend because most of the sodium consumed comes from prepared and processed foods rather than a dash of kosher salt to make your homemade meals pop. Excessive sodium intake can increase blood pressure, which is a primary risk factor for heart disease. Slashing sodium consumption is seen as a straightforward way to prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.
Unfortunately, “simple” doesn’t always mean “easy.” To prevent cardiovascular disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two-year and 10-year voluntary targets to cut sodium levels in the processed foods we consume. Despite this recommendation, Congress responded by temporarily blocking the (FDA) from implementing the plan, citing the exponentially high conversion cost over 10 years.
Companies can approach the adoption of a sodium reduction program in six simple steps:
STEP 1: Review Consumer Insights and Feedback for Product Categories
First, take a look at consumer insights and feedback to understand what people like about a particular flavor profile within a specific product line. Flavor can account for the primary source of hesitation when it comes to scaling back sodium in products. Altering a product’s taste too much can hurt the bottom line.
Additionally, consider the sales data for products and understand that changes to a higher volume product come with higher risks if formulations include too many changes.
STEP 2: Identify Formulas with the Highest Sodium Usage
Understand which formulas have the highest usage and percentage of sodium. It’s essential to consider that not all sodium is created equal, and not all sodium comes from salt itself. It can come from other chemicals, such as potassium, sorbates, etc.
STEP 3: Identify Ingredients that Contribute to High Sodium Content
Identify ingredients that contribute to the highest amount of sodium. To do this, you’ll need to understand the difference between natural vs. artificial flavors in the formulations. These can often mimic the taste of salt or contribute to more flavor characteristics
STEP 4: Evaluate Attributes
Evaluate the product’s chemical, physical, and sensory attributes to decide where and how products can create consumer risk. Profile existing formulations and determine the risk of modifying the sodium profile in specific formulas.
STEP 5: Develop a Risk-Based Development and Consumer Testing Plan
Test to determine whether a dramatic change in the amount of sodium used in a given formulation will have perceptible effects on customer preference. If customers notice the difference in taste, what impact will that have on the product’s overall sales? What verbal feedback do focus groups provide, and could there be social implications on your brand related to a cutback in saltiness?
STEP 6: Create a Roadmap for Formula Transformation
In the final step, create a multi-year roadmap for formula transformations. For example, you might have a product with a formula of 1,000 mg of sodium, and over time, the roadmap will reduce that level to 500 mg of sodium in three years. The roadmap can help reduce sodium gradually over a given period, and the business can respond if sales begin to drop.
Better, Faster Innovation
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To hear more, catch this on-demand webinar, where TraceGains CEO Gary Nowacki and Sales Engineer Ruben Galbraith share how Networked Product Development drives collaboration, innovation, and faster time to market. Download the recording and slides here.