Unilever today announced the launch of a global salt reduction strategy for its Foods portfolio, covering over 22 000 products.
Unilever has committed to a reduction in salt across its products to target a dietary intake of 6g of salt per day by the end of 2010, with a further reduction targeting an intake of 5g per day for the end of 2015. The latter is in line with World Health Organization guidelines, while 6g is the recommended by most countries' food authorities.
Unilever is the first food company to set worldwide goals for salt reduction across its entire range. Gert Meijer, Unilever VP Nutrition and Health, comments, "This is a unique approach as we are dealing with our portfolio in a holistic way in terms of daily dietary contribution, rather than only looking at the input of individual products, or simply launching a lower salt range."
Meijer adds, "We measure the contribution of our products to daily salt intake in the context of their role within a typical menu – looking at how often consumers usually eat products containing salt, and how much each product contributes to their daily diet. For example, soup contributes 10% to the amount of salt (sodium chloride) to an average daily diet. Therefore, in order to meet our target for 2010, the salt in our soups would have to be reduced to 360mg of sodium per 100g; provided the rest of the diet is within reduced sodium parameters." Unilever is reducing salt through recipe reformulations, salt replacers and enhancing the salty taste with aromas, herbs and spices.
Salt is essential for a healthy diet, but too much of it may lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, over 26% of adults have high blood pressure, and approximately 8 million deaths are attributed to it. While the current average daily intake of salt is between 9 and 12g, the World Health Organization recommends 5g of salt per day.
Approximately 75% of salt intake comes from processed foods such as bread, cheese, meat, sauces and soups. Consumers will be more likely to adapt their taste preference to lower levels of salt if the food industry as a whole reduces salt levels.
Unilever's commitment to reduce salt in its portfolio is another step of the company's Nutrition Enhancement Programme (NEP), launched in 2003, through which Unilever's entire food and beverage product portfolio is assessed on an ongoing basis to help to plan nutritional improvements. To date, the NEP has resulted in the removal of over 30 000 tons of trans fat, 18 000 tons of saturated fat, 9 100 tons of salt and 37 000 tons of sugar from across Unilever's global portfolio.