Monday, January 11, 2010

Stealth or health marketing?

Today's WSJ notes that food marketers are making their products healthier by reducing salt content without making a big marketing deal out of the change. Low- and no-sodium foods generally don't sell as well as mainstream foods, so Campbell, ConAgra, and others are slowly but steadily helping customers adapt to slightly less salt in favorites such as V-8 juice and Orville Redenbacher popcorn.

Customers get used to a bit less salt . . . and don't even know they're eating healthier, unless they read the fine print in the food facts label and track the sodium numbers year after year. Stealth or health marketing? As long as the details are disclosed on the label, I think this approach is fine.

Apart from the public health implications, this kind of gradual change will benefit food marketers as they move to comply with new government guidelines (sometimes voluntary) regarding lower fat, sugar, salt content in certain items. For instance, having banned trans fats, New York City is now asking for low-sodium processed foods and fast foods.

In fact, lower sodium will be one of the top food trends of 2010, according to food forecasters. So hold the salt and check the labels. Healthy happy new year.

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