Salt is a very keenly debated topic in food production. While it's essential for life - yes, if you have no salt at all you will die - there's little debate that too much salt is pretty nasty, too. Given that we know this to be true, the common argument goes, the food industry should be reducing the salt levels in it's food. We spoke to all major manufacturers about their salt levels and asked them to tell us just what they're doing.
Here's what one of Europe's largest manufacturers said they've done:
The first salt reduction work started in 2006 but the first year we have robust data for is 2008 when we started to capture data at the end of each year. This is recorded for two key measures which is per 100gm and then per pizza. In the beginning we had two target values of per 100gm with a lower level for pizzas without high salt toppings although most of our retail customers would put cheese topped pizzas within this category, we then had a higher limit for cured meat products like pepperoni. The values given here for 2008 are the sales weighted average across the two limits so we can compare to the 2015 target which is one value only.
All data is also "as consumed", we do have one customer that uses "as sold" still but as the majority of customers show the data "as consumed" this is how we record it. [To clarify, the differende between "as consumed" and "as sold" is like saying cooked v uncooked. Cooking can evaporate some water from the finished product and therefore make it lighter so the measurements "per 100gm" would change during cooking.]
Of the 7 customers that have remained over this period we have seen decreases in "per 100gms" value with 4 of them with the decreases ranging from -1.0% to -21.7%, with 3 customers we have seen the "per 100gm" value increase. However overall we have seen a decline of 4.7% in the 100gm value from 1.07 down to 1.02. Of greater interest is the salt value per pizza where here we have seen a major decrease with the salt per pizza dropping from 4.07g in 2008 to 3.63g in 2015. Whilst this decrease may seem small this equates to 44.6 tonnes of salt having been removed from the volume sold in the UK 2015.
Over the 7 year time span we have seen a major change in our product mix, in 2008 we had one product that had a salt value of 1.83g per 100gms, today the highest level we have is 1.4g per 100gms a decrease of over 23%. We have also seen the introduction of products that have higher average salt levels such as Fresh Dough/Rising pizza where the sodium is driven by the rising agent in the dough. Also we now sell a large volume of Stuffed Crust again these carry higher salt levels due to the recipe.
Therefore the fact we have managed to reduce the overall salt level is a testament to the work we have put into to creating products that consumers find acceptable but also contribute to reducing their salt intake.