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Kai Ryssdal: Politicians aren’t the only ones thinking health. Today, Pepsi — which makes Fritos, Cheetos and a whole slew of other salty snacks — said it’s planning to cut the amount of salt in its products 25 percent over the next five years. Pepsi’s just the latest company to tackle the problems we have with too much sodium in our diets.
Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports, it had best tread carefully.
ALISA ROTH: Like low-fat and high fiber before it, cutting sodium is the latest way for companies to try to make processed foods healthier. Or less unhealthy, anyway.
PepsiCo’s not the only one: Kraft Foods, ConAgra and Campbell Soup are all promising foods with less salt in them.
Jonathan Feeney follows PepsiCo at Janney Montgomery Scott. He says this one can be particularly tricky.
JONATHAN FEENEY: It’s very, very critical, and you’re seeing they’re moving very carefully with this, not to radically alter the taste profile of these foods. Because the fact is these are foods that if they don’t have the right taste profile, people can do without them.
Salt doesn’t just make food salty. It also affects the way we perceive other flavors. And you find sodium in all kinds of products: like soups and even soda.
Krista Faron is an analyst at a market research firm, Mintel International. She says consumers know too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure. But unlike the push for, say, low-fat foods, this one is really coming from the government and public health experts.
So she says cutting salt isn’t necessarily about increasing sales.
KRISTA FARON: If they’re strategy is kind of stealth health, meaning changing the sodium levels gradually, doing it subtly, they would actually hope that there is no impact on sales.
The health benefits may be subtle too. PepsiCo’s promising to reduce salt content by an average of 25 percent, which means it’ll be reduced less in some products.
It also depends how much you eat: a whole bag of low-salt potato chips still has plenty of sodium.
In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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