The Food Industry

Checking food label

More than 75% of salt consumed by Australians is eaten as ‘hidden’ salt. This is the salt that is in processed foods. Salt added to food at the table represents only a small proportion of daily salt intake.

AWASH launched its Drop the Salt! campaign in May 2007 to develop a five-year strategy to reduce salt in processed foods by 25%. The strategy aims to secure high level commitment from Australia’s food industry to activate ways to reformulate food products with lower salt options. The Australian food industry has begun to make good progress and recognises that more needs to be done.

Individual food company agreements are being negotiated with AWASH experts including Dr Bruce Neal, Chair of AWASH, Senior Director at The George Institute for International Health and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, and Ms Jacqui Webster, AWASH Project Manager and previous coordinator of the UK Food Standards Agency’s salt reduction strategy.

AWASH has also secured support from other key stakeholders including the food industry.

The food industry in Australia has already taken steps to reduce salt in some food products, partly in order to meet the criteria required to obtain the National Heart Foundation’s Tick accreditation but also as awareness of AWASH objectives grow. The AWASH food industry strategy will be building on the action already taken to reduce salt in some food products and the continued commitment of the food industry to make further changes. Some of the commitments and actions are detailed below:

Manufacturers

Australian Food and Grocery Council is the peak national organisation representing Australia’s packaged food, drink and grocery products manufacturing industry. It supports initiatives contributing to the objective of improving public health through healthy eating including reducing hypertension through a target daily salt intake for adults below 6g per day. The AFGC advocates that the food industry should continue to review product formulations and processing technologies with a view to reducing the use of salt, whilst still ensuring that food products remain appealing to consumers in taste, convenience and price and that product safety and integrity can be maintained throughout an appropriate shelf-life.

The WHO report, Reducing Salt Intake in Populations, released in April 2007, emphasises the need to work closely with food manufacturers as the cornerstone of any successful national salt reduction campaign.

Many manufacturers have already made a significant impact on reducing salt in foods. For example:

  • George Weston Foods became one of the first companies to work with the National Heart Foundation (NHF) in 2007 to establish the initial sodium criteria of 450mg/100g for the bread category, as part of the ‘Heart Tick’ program. It has now achieved a further reduction to 400mg/100g across its mainstream bread portfolio – joining the Burgen® range of breads which has met this benchmark since 2004.
    • Tip Top® UP®, Tip Top® 9 Grain®, Tip Top® Gold Max®, Tip Top® Gold Split® and Tip Top® Sunblest® now have 400mg/100g of sodium – which is the current NHF Tick criteria for the bread category. This represents a total reduction of over 20% on average since 1997.
    • Golden® Crumpets and Crumpet Toast® have been reformulated from 650mg/100g of sodium (Crumpets) and 820mg/100g of sodium (Crumpet Toast). This represents a total sodium reduction of 8% and 28% respectively, which has resulted in the removal of 4.6 tonnes of salt from the Australian food supply on an annual basis (based on 2008 sales volumes).

    As part of this new reduction initiative, over 346 tonnes of salt will be removed annually from the Australian food supply – a significant contribution to the nation’s health and another way that market leader Tip Top® Sunblest® has set the trend towards improving the nutritional credentials of bread.

  • Goodman Fielder The Baking division of Goodman Fielder proudly supports activities that educate and increase consumer awareness of health initiatives such as managing salt intake. Our salt reduction commitment extends to just over 100 loaves and rolls, so the focus over the past 12 months has been on family favourites including brands like Wonder White and Buttercup. This range is responsible for just over 60% of our volume sales and has a forecast impact in the first 12 months of around 120 tonnes of salt removed.Wonder White, the original high fibre white bread, will lead the rollout at the end of March with the range contributing 70 tonnes of this forecast, or just over 500 household wheelie bins of salt removed from the food supply. Wonder White Vitamins and Minerals ranks in the top 10 grocery products sold behind soft drink, coffee and chocolate and it is the number one selling proprietary white bread. The makeover of Wonder White Hi Fibre Plus has resulted in a sandwich that is now 20% less salty. Good news for all sandwich lovers at home, school or when grabbing that favourite bite at the sandwich bar.This hard work and dedication to making Wonder White even healthier has earned the whole range the Heart Foundation’s Tick of approval for meeting its strict standards for saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and fibre. This is also good news for school canteens, as the range meets both government and non-government based “Green Food” canteen guidelines, encouraged as the best choice for canteen menus. We are embracing the challenge of balancing sodium functionality against public health targets and remain committed to our target of 200 tonnes of salt removed ahead of the Department of Health’s Food and Health Dialogue initiative 2013 deadline.
  • Bakers Delight is committed to reducing salt levels across all products over the coming years and will proactively work with AWASH to achieve this. Bakers Delight is currently reviewing the salt content of all products and developing a salt reduction strategy.Bakers Delight actively supports a healthy lifestyle, with a range catering to the trend towards healthy living. Bakers Delight’s health commitment can be demonstrated through a range of product related health attributes. Not to mention promotion of a healthy lifestyle both in-store and out in the community. For more information visit: www.bakersdelight.com.au.
  • Freedom Foods is a leader in the “free from” market segment, which comprises of food and beverage products manufactured free from key allergens such as gluten, wheat, nuts and dairy, while also maintaining a superior nutritional profile.Delivering products that are low in salt across breakfast cereals, snacks, bars and soy beverages remains a critical factor for the company. In their breakfast cereals alone, Freedom Foods have eight products that meet AWASH’s ‘low in salt’ criteria (120mg/100g); Rice Flakes with Psyllium & Corn Flakes with a hint of Gold Syrup (both 112mg/100g), Rice Puffs with Psyllium (111mg/100g), Gluten Free Muesli (30mg/100g), Yeast Free Muesli (6mg/100g), Quick Oats (3mg/100g), Norganic Crunchola Apple Cinnamon and Apple Blueberry (both 25mg/100g).Freedom Foods also has five snack bars well below 120mg/100g, biscuits and their soy beverages – trading under Soy Natural and Australia’s Own Organic Milks. Freedom Foods new product development in 2010 will be committed to achieving low salt status and supports the work of AWASH.
  • Heinz Australia is a supporter in principle of the AWASH group, due to its intention to improve the diets of Australians and raise awareness about health. This is consistent with Heinz Australia’s ongoing efforts to reduce salt in recipes across a range of products such as soups, meals and sauces, and is backed up by extensive taste testing and consumer research to ensure that flavour is not compromised, and our products move in line with changing consumer tastes.
  • Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing has a philosophy of creating truly nourishing food, made from whole food ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. As part of this emphasis on nature’s whole plant foods, Sanitarium recognises the importance of making foods with a lower sodium (salt) content to help consumers on their health and wellbeing journey.As part of our Food Policy, Sanitarium considers minimising sodium as a significant factor when developing new products.In addition to our extensive range of foods and beverages that meet the criteria for low in salt (<120mg sodium/100g), we have also recently developed several new products that are low in salt. These include:
    • Weet-Bix Kids – now with No Added Salt
    • Light n Tasty Macadamia and Honey with Oat Clusters – low in salt
    • Up & Go yoghurts – low in salt.

    Sanitarium recognises the challenge of balancing sodium content in foods for its functionality along with our commitment to continue to reduce the sodium content in our current product range. We have recently completed a number of projects to reduce the sodium levels in a range of our foods. These include:

    • Sanitarium Cornflakes – sodium reduced by 25%
    • Weet-Bix Bites Golden Crumble – sodium reduced by 16%.

We are continuing to make further reductions in sodium across a range of our foods.

  • Unilever Australasia recognises the importance of reducing salt in the food supply. As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we are committed to further reduce, systematically, the amount of salt in our products right across our portfolio, in an effort to help consumers meet the World Health Organization (WHO) daily salt intake recommendations.To date we have already significantly reduced salt levels across our portfolio globally. We have made reductions of up to 25% across our portfolio, whilst maintaining excellent tasting products, aiming for an interim target, which will contribute to a dietary intake of 6 grams of salt per day. In Australia and New Zealand, we removed more than 250 tonnes of salt from our spreads range in the 1990’s and since 2001 we have reduced the salt content across 155 Continental products by on average 30%.In 2012, our journey continues as we work to reduce salt levels a further 15-20% in order to help consumers meet World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of 5 grams of salt per day. We envisage arriving at this target between 2015 and 2020.Unilever ANZ is an advisory board member of AWASH and is working with the Australian Government’s Food and Health Dialogue to implement a series of salt reduction targets. Together we aim to promote healthier lifestyles through reducing the salt content of commonly consumed foods and showing consumers how they can prepare delicious and healthy meals that are lower in salt.To read more about Unilever’s nutrition commitments, visit: http://www.unilever.com.au/
  • Kellogg’s is committed to reducing sodium across our brands. Since 1997, we have significantly reduced the sodium across our range including Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes by 36% and Kellogg’s® Sultana Bran by 59%. Since 1997 this has resulted in the removal of around 250 tonnes of sodium from the Australian food supply.In March 2010, as part of the Food and Health Dialogue, Kellogg’s further committed to reducing the sodium in our breakfast cereals. We will achieve the promised 15% sodium reduction in cereals exceeding 400mg/100g by the end of 2013.Kellogg also believes in providing easy to understand nutrition information to allow people to choose foods that best meet their needs. That’s why we put %DI (daily intake) on the front of all our packs to provide at a glance information on the sodium in a serving of cereal. Kellogg also recognises that the term “sodium” can be confusing to consumers so we have added “salt equivalents” to our packs.Kellogg breakfast cereals that are low salt (<120mg/100g) include the Mini Wheats® and Just Right®, range as well as Sustain®. Since 2005 around 75% of all of our new breakfast cereals launched are less than 400mg per 100g or on average 100mg per serve.
  • Lowan Whole Foods is committed to providing consumers with high quality whole foods that promote good health. It recently re-launched and extended its children’s range of cereals to improve nutritional values including having a low level of salt. All products in the Lowan Kids range now meet the criteria for a low salt food. Lowan has set a significant benchmark when it comes to salt reduction and encourages other food manufactures to consider similar initiatives.Lowan Whole Foods congratulates AWASH for taking a stand against salt and wholeheartedly supports the AWASH salt reduction campaign. Lowan Whole Foods has been providing quality whole foods to consumers for over 30 years, and recognises the importance of providing children with healthy products that in turn will promote a healthier future generation.It understands that significantly reducing salt levels in manufactured foods presents a difficult challenge, particularly in the breakfast cereal category. However, Lowan has proven that it can be done through the development of its new Lowan Kids range. It has set a significant benchmark when it comes to salt reduction by reducing the salt content in its children’s cereal Honey O’s by over 1/3 to just 81mg per 100g, and encourages other food manufactures to consider similar salt reduction initiatives in the interest of our nation’s health.
  • Monster Muesli products are all low in salt and meet the “low in salt” criteria (<120mg/100g). Monster Muesli is committed to providing consumers with great tasting, healthy muesli and porridge, and has been operating for 17 years as an Australian owned manufacturer of breakfast cereals. Monster Muesli is an enthusiastic supporter of the AWASH salt reduction campaign. Monster Muesli products which meet the criteria “low in salt” are:
    • Monster Muesli Free & Lo
    • Monster Muesli Free & Fruity
    • Monster Muesli Sports muesli
    • Multi Grain Porridge
    • Monster Muesli Berry muesli
    • Monster Muesli Hi Fibre
    • Monster Muesli Tropical
  • The Smith’s Snackfood Company is on a journey to transform its product and has publicly committed to reducing the sodium content across its product range by 25% over five years, commencing May 2007.Good progress has been made, with 32 different products being reformulated in the first three years of the program.Good progress has been made resulting in a 20% reduction and 40 different products being reformulated in four years of the program.The amount of sodium reduction has varied from product to product to ensure that consumer acceptability is maintained.Some of Smith’s bestselling products have had significant reductions in sodium levels. Products that have had at least 20% sodium reduction since the program commenced include:
    • Smith’s Crinkle Cut Potato Chips: – Chicken, Original, Salt & Vinegar
    • Smith’s Thinly Cut Potato Chips: – Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion
    • Red Rock Deli – Lime & Black Pepper, Rice Crisps Sour Cream & Chives;
    • Doritos – Nacho Cheese;
    • Twisties – Chicken;
    • Parker’s Pretzels – Baked Wheat Twists, Lightly Baked Mini Wheats;
    • Sakata – Classic BBQ; and
    • Nobby’s Nuts – Salted Peanuts, Salted Cashews, Salted Beer Nuts

Supermarkets

  • Coles is committed to developing its Housebrand food offer in a nutritionally balanced way and will look to reduce salt levels in its Housebrand foods while continuing to ensure great taste and minimising potential cost impacts to its customers. In January 2008, Coles made a commitment of an average 25% reduction in salt over five years in its Housebrand foods. Since then, Coles has been working in partnership with its suppliers to work towards their commitment, ensuring product safety, quality, value and taste are not compromised by the salt reductions.Examples of best practice so far include:
    • An average 40% sodium reduction in Coles’ Muesli Bars (all these products will now contain less than 65mg sodium per 100g).
    • Coles’ nut range is another category that has been reformulated to reduce its sodium content. For example, Roasted and Salted Cashews 393mg per 100g to 275mg per 100g (30% sodium reduction); Mixed Nuts 393mg per 100g to 275mg per 100g (30% sodium reduction); and Macadamia Dry Roasted 296mg per 100g to 236mg per 100g (20% sodium reduction).
    • A range of ‘Lite’ frozen meals was introduced that contain an average sodium content of 236mg per 100g

    Coles supports and remains committed to helping AWASH reach their goal of improving the health of Australians by achieving a gradual population-wide reduction in dietary salt consumption. They will continue to communicate progress and achievements on salt reduction to both customers and employees. Reducing salt has become a key part in the development of all new foods, without compromising the safety, quality, value or taste. Coles believes it is on track to achieve the dietary goals laid out in its five-year salt reduction strategy plan of an average 25% reduction in the salt content of its foods.

Quick Food Service Sector

  • McDonald’s Australia has made many positive changes over the past decade, including introducing more choices across the menu and reducing the salt in its buns, tortillas, crispy chicken strips, marinades, sauces and salad dressings. As a result of these changes over 75 tonnes of sodium have been removed from the Australian food supply. McDonald’s continues to look at opportunities for reducing salt and is currently working on further reductions across core menu items. McDonald’s continues to provide more choices and information for its customers, enabling them to make informed choices about what they eat at McDonald’s.
  • Yum! Restaurants Australia, the franchisor of KFC and Pizza Hut in Australia, believes all foods should be consumed as part of a balanced lifestyle, including exercise. They are committed to supporting responsible dietary choices through full disclosure of their nutrition information, while providing more nutritious foods across the menu and more choice, including healthier options. As part of this commitment, Yum! is focused on reducing sodium across the core products on the menu, while still providing customers with great tasting, fresh products. In 2010, KFC Australia achieved an average 15% reduction in sodium across core chicken menu items and a 21% reduction in seasoned chip salt. In 2011, they reduced sodium in burger buns by 30% and dinner rolls by 37%.  Further reductions across various menu items including tortillas, bacon and chicken products are currently in progress.Yum! is actively exploring opportunities to extend this salt reduction on both brands, and through the use of new technology, aim to be testing further significant salt reductions with consumers at the start of 2010. The Yum! goal for the future is to support customers to lower their salt consumption, by offering meals from our core menu that have less than 1000mg of sodium.
  • Subway® Systems Australia (SUBWAY) has undertaken extensive research and development with the help of its suppliers to reduce salt content across a number of the ingredients in our range.In March 2008, SUBWAY in Australia commenced a sodium reduction initiative. By working closely with our suppliers we have been able to achieve salt reduction in a wide range of products. Since 2008, Subway® Restaurants has progressively implemented these salt-reduced varieties in all stores. Approximately, there has been a 55% salt reduction in Roast Beef, 36% reduction in Chicken Strips, 30% reduction in Marinara sauce, 25 % reduction in Chipotle Sauce, Teriyaki Glaze and Ham, 23% reduction in Shredded Mozzarella, 15% reduction in Honey Mustard Sauce and 10% reduction in Wheat Bread (including Honey-Oat) and White Bread (including Italian Herbs and Cheese).Additionally, Olives and Pickles have been removed from the standard sandwich build and are now optional inclusions upon customer request, together with cheese for some subs.
  • Domino’s announced their commitment in September 2009 to reducing salt content in their proteins, bakery and dairy ingredients by 25% over the next three years as well as reducing the saturated fat content of their proteins and dairy ingredients by 15%. Since making the commitment, Domino’s has already reduced the salt in its Chicken Breasts, Kickers and Wings by 20% and its beef product by 18%. The Domino’s Chicken Breast alone has had a 50% decrease in saturated fat. Domino’s is continuing to work with suppliers to increase quality of its products while decreasing the salt and saturated fat in key ingredients. Domino’s CEO Don Meij said these significant targets were the company’s short term goal, with a longer term goal to reduce the salt content even further.
  • Oporto recognises the importance of contributing to the reduction of sodium in our diets. It is pro-actively working with suppliers to decrease the salt in its key ingredients and menu items. Oporto continues to support the AWASH group and look at new initiatives to reduce salt in its products.All new Oporto products are developed to minimise salt levels where possible to ensure it maintains a balance of great tasting food along with the highest standards of food safety and shelf life. Oporto is committed to serving premium quality 100% fresh breast fillet burgers and grilled chicken.
  • Compass Group has an ongoing program of salt reduction as part of its overall Health and Wellness program which includes reformulation and labelling in relation to specific criteria for fat, energy, fibre and salt. This runs in parallel with monthly food and nutrition education sessions for food service staff.

Research Institutions

  • Food Science Australia, together with a number of Australian food manufacturing companies, is starting a research project to find out if food structure design can be used to control salt perception in emulsion based foods. The aim is to design foods that provide an enhanced perception of the salt ions when the food is broken down by chewing. Such a technology would provide the opportunity to reduce the salt content while maintaining the salt perception of a high salt containing food. These new foods are being developed with the assistance of an in vitro model that mimics the in-mouth processes that occur during mastication. These foods will also be tested by sensory panels. The project is planned to run for three years and is starting in February 2008.

“The work that was done in the UK… to reduce salt levels in processed foods was an excellent example of government and industry working effectively together on an important issue of public health. Over a period of three years very significant reductions were made across a broad range of product categories that included everything from bread and breakfast cereals to soups and meal sauces”.

Gavin Neath – Chairman, Unilever Bestfoods