Industry News | February 10, 2010

Sodium Still Big on Consumers' Minds

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A new study released by health and nutrition market research firm HealthFocus International suggests that consumers are concerned about their sodium intake—and that quick serves may suffer from their concern.

According to the study, which surveyed approximately 800 people in November, 65 percent of consumers have at least some degree of concern for their sodium intake. Forty-four percent said they regularly pay attention to their sodium consumption.

The study also suggested that consumers are not very educated on the matter of sodium: 79 percent of respondents said they do not know what the recommended daily intake of sodium is. Only 7 percent knew the correct amount of 1,500–2,400 milligrams per day.

“It’s not like they know how much they should take in and then they monitor against it,” said Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International, during a Webinar presenting the study results.

Nearly half of the respondents—48 percent—said that they at least know they consume too much sodium.

Quick-service restaurants, according to the HealthFocus survey, could be the victims of increased sodium concern. Of the venues where consumers are most concerned about their sodium intake, fast-food restaurants clocked in at No. 1, with 51 percent of respondents being extremely or very concerned.

“Fast-food restaurants … really took a lot more of a hit than sit-down restaurants,” Katz said during the Webinar.

Also, of the 44 percent of respondents who said they always or usually control their sodium intake, 33 percent of them said they avoid eating at fast-food restaurants.

When asked what products they avoid for fear of consuming too much sodium, respondents overwhelmingly chose fast-food and processed food products. No. 1 on the list of products consumers are extremely or very likely to avoid was “French fries from a fast-food restaurant,” which was selected by 37 percent of respondents.

Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they were extremely or very likely to avoid “Hamburgers at fast-food restaurants,” putting it at No. 2. The seventh-most avoided product was “Chicken from a fast-food restaurant,” with 31 percent.

Twenty-five percent of survey respondents reported being “heavy users” of fast-food restaurants. Of that 25 percent, 64 percent are men; 58 percent know they probably consume too much sodium; 65 percent are concerned with their sodium intake; 44 percent are paying attention to their sodium intake; and 31 percent are not reducing their sodium consumption because they do not want to sacrifice taste.

By Sam Oches

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