Patient Education Are Salt-Reduced Products Less Appealing?
The impact of front-of-pack ‘reduced salt’ messaging on reported likability of foods.
South Africans’ salt intake of 8.5 grams/ per day is almost 4 grams higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommended 5 grams/ per day. For this reason, South African health authorities, have adopted healthy strategies to reduce the incidence of sodium-related non-communicable diseases.
As one of the largest food goods companies in the world, Unilever aims to make a bigger positive impact on consumer’s health and well-being. In pursuit of this goal, we’re making our products more responsibly delicious by including more effective and accurate nutrition labelling to help consumers easily find foods low or high in salt. In turn making it easier for consumers to adopt nutritious diets and make informed choices.
Front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labels are designed to give simplified nutrition information to consumers at a glance. FOP labels are also considered an effective way to help people make healthier food choices and consequently promote the reformulation of more food goods to contain less salt, thus further improving consumer’s diets. As a result, in 2018, 96% of our products provided nutritional information in line with our nutrition labelling commitment.
Unilever’s aim is to systematically reduce the amount of salt across its portfolio to help consumers meet the globally recommended daily salt intake of 5 g per day. Unilever is working towards this target through the continuous reformulation of high-salt products. Knorrox has paved the way with their stock cubes variants which are now available with 25% less salt as per salt regulation.
In addition, Unilever runs several behaviour change interventions such as awareness campaigns and health education programs to empower people to improve their diets and increase demand for lower-salt food products. The awareness campaign features key messages on the risks of high salt intake on one’s health, the 5 g/d salt target, sources of salt and advice to check labels for salt content.
But do consumers actually read labels?
A 2018 study by the Public Health Nutrition, showed that although “less salt product” information was available on pack, participants continued to add salt post-preparation in the form of table salt.
The study concluded that participants like salt-reduced soups but in fact they liked them more when they carried a nutritional message. However, the battle still lies in prompting consumers to regularly read labels.
Country-specific tailored communication continues to be essential to attracting consumers towards salt-reduced products.
Bertram, M.Y., Steyn, K., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Tollman, S. and Hofman, K.J., 2012. Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. South African Medical Journal, 102(9), pp.743-745.
Regan, Á., Kent, M., Raats, M., McConnon, Á., Wall, P. and Dubois, L., 2017. Applying a consumer behaviour lens to salt reduction initiatives. Nutrients, 9(8), p.901.
World Health Organization, 2016. The SHAKE technical package for salt reduction.
Zandstra, E.H., Willems, A.A. and Lion, R., 2018. Making salt-reduced products more appealing to consumers: impact of front-of-pack messages on liking and table salt use over time. Public health nutrition, 21(15), pp.2762-2772.