Salt sprinkling

Salt consumption: confusion and taste reign

Global life sciences company, DSM, has published results of a consumer perception survey revealing that urban consumers around the world continue to be confused about the amount of salt they consume, about maximum recommended daily intakes (RDI) and that taste still wins over health concerns when buying food.

The findings are included in the first of a series of global insight reports set to be published by DSM to explore people’s perceptions of savoury tastes in countries as diverse as US, Brazil, China, Poland and Nigeria.

The survey results from 5 000 participants show that about half of urban consumers believe they eat less than 5 grams of salt a day.

Respondents from the US believe they eat the largest amount of salt with more than 61% believing they consume 10 or more grams a day – twice the recommended daily amount. Nigerian consumers think they eat the lowest amount with almost 65% reporting that they eat less than 5 grams a day.

Actual salt consumption studies around the world, however, show that people are likely to consume as much as three times the recommended daily amount.

A 2012 report released by the European Commission revealed that men and women in Europe generally consume anywhere from 6 to 18 grams of salt daily. In the US, research presented at the American Society of Nutrition Experimental Biology Conference in Boston indicated that, despite manufacturers’ best efforts, Americans’ sodium intake increased by 63 mg a day every two years from 2001 to 2010, which amounted to a 7.9% increase over that time.

The DSM perception survey revealed furthermore that 80% of people said they would be willing to lose some of the flavour in foods that they typically prepare and eat if they knew that it would improve their health. Those living in China are most willing to make this change, while Americans are least willing.

In spite of this, only 25% cited healthiness as a reason to buy a processed or pre-prepared food again — taste, convenience and price were all more likely to drive purchases. This supports previous research suggesting that, in spite of good intentions, consumers are not likely to purchase products that are perceived to have less taste.

A 2009 report by HealthFocus International found that just one-in-three (34%) of shoppers would avoid their favourite foods in order to eat more healthily.