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CHICAGO -- U.S. consumers are becoming less concerned with their sodium intake, according to new research from The NPD Group, and consumption of low- and no-sodium foods is on the decline.
Although cutting down on sodium-heavy foods remains a popular trend, 64 percent of consumers were interested in doing so in 2013, down 4 percent from 2010. And 39 percent of U.S. adults looked for sodium content on nutrition labels in 2013, down from 41 percent in 2010, NPD's research found.
This decline is likely to continue during the next five years, according to NPD's "The Future of Eating: Who's Eating What in 2018?," as interest in foods with label codes like low-sodium/salt-free, low/reduced fat will fall by 1 percent by 2018 among every generation except Generation Z.
"People are paying less attention to the basics on nutrition labels like sodium, calories, fats and carbs, and more attention to sugar and protein," said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm. "Regardless of the available nutritional information and dietary guidelines, consumers are choosing to focus on what they deem important."
Despite declining concern over sodium intake, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon issue voluntary sodium guidelines for food manufacturers and restaurants, due to many consumers often eating above the government recommended daily sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams (1,500 milligrams for ages 50-plus).
"Salt is an important ingredient in making foods taste good. Simply removing sodium from foods and/or beverages will likely be met with consumer resistance," Seifer added. "Eating habits are difficult to change unless a change is required because of a health condition. If food manufacturers and foodservice operators are able to reduce the sodium in foods and still make them taste as good, inroads will be made in reducing U.S. consumers' salt intake."