Consumers to food producers: By-pass the salt, please

Supermarket foods with reduced salt are expected to surge in demand as the condiment is set to be the next target for health professionals, according to a new report.

Brands of packaged foods with reduced fat, sugar, salt, or carbohydrates on the label now come under the umbrella term of Better For You (BFY) products.

Sales of ‘health halo’ foods such as reduced-fat mayonnaise and cheese or reduced-sugar sauces have risen by 10% over the last decade — with Ireland now the fifth biggest purchaser of the products in the world.

A new report by Euromonitor International on BFY foods says salt is the next foodstuff to be targeted by health professionals: “Reduced-salt packaged food is expected to lead growth. While sugar is currently receiving more attention, salt is likely to also be on consumers’ radars over the next few years.”

BFY foods are defined as products where the amount of a substance considered to be less healthy such as fat, sugar, carbohydrates, or salt has been actively reduced during production. 

Norway is the biggest consumer of BFY foods on the planet followed by Denmark, New Zealand, and Canada.

Irish people forked out €128.40 per head of population last year on the health-conscious foods compared to €119 in 2007.

But the Euromonitor report said overall growth is expected to be slower compared to recent years as many food manufacturers are introducing new healthier product reformulations where possible.

The newly released report said rising consumer disposable incomes should help boost demand for BFY packaged foods.

“Ireland will continue to struggle to contain its obesity crisis over the coming years”, said the report.

It noted that further measures could be introduced on top of the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to “reduce consumption of higher-sugar content packaged food products”.

“A similar concept could be applied to sugar-laden packaged foods, with VAT increasing for products with higher sugar levels in a bid to encourage producers to offer healthier options”, said the Euromonitor research.

It added: “While most sugar reduction efforts will remain focused on soft drinks, consumers are making more informed decisions when purchasing packaged foods also.

“The fact that consumers are increasingly opting for lower sugar, lower caffeine, and sugar-free drinks is positively impacting BFY beverages sales.”

 

The report also observed that a number of drinks manufacturers have already begun a systematic reformulation of their products in response to public health concerns and the widespread introduction of sugar taxes.

“Pepsi has announced that it will reduce sugar content by 2% year on year, while Coca-Cola has also stated its aim to reduce sugar content in all products by 10% by 2020”, said Euromonitor.

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