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Americas: General Mills is happy about sodium reduction efforts

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General Mills says seven out of 10 product categories are lower in sodium by 20%, with reductions across the 10 categories ranging from 18-35%.

The industry-leading effort encompasses sodium reduction initiatives on more than 350 of the company’s products, or more than one-third of its current US retail sales volume.

The categories include cereals, dry dinners, frozen pizza, Mexican dinners, refrigerated dough products, savory snacks, canned vegetables, side dishes, soups, and variety baking mixes.

Significant progress was also made in the three categories in which General Mills did not meet the aggressive 20% target, including a 19% sodium reduction in ready-to-serve soup and in Mexican products, as well as 18% reduction in cereal.

The company has taken a gradual approach to sodium reduction over time using small, incremental steps to introduce the changes gradually, giving people time to adapt their palates to the lower sodium levels.

“Taste is the main driver of food purchases – and we believe making repeated changes to accomplish a series of gradual reductions is the best way to continue to deliver the great taste consumers expect, while also supporting our commitment to the goal of reducing sodium intake in the American diet,” said Maha Tahiri, the company’s chief health and wellness officer and VP, Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

Product developers have been able to reduce sodium in some recipes by adding additional spices to ensure the flavor of the food remains vibrant, and in others by adjusting the placement of the sodium – moving it to the food’s surface, for example, so it is more readily tasted.

General Mills has been focused on nutritional improvements since 2005, when it first established its ‘Health Metric’ to track progress across its product portfolio.

Improvements have included enhancing foods and nutrients to encourage such as whole grain, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and reducing nutrients of concern such as calories, sodium, sugar and fat, all while ensuring great taste.

In 2010, the company accelerated its sodium reduction efforts by publicly stating its pledge to reduce sodium by 20% in 10 key product categories.