Our promise to lower sodium
Today General Mills reported on the progress we have made against our publicly stated commitment to reduce sodium in 10 key U.S. Retail categories by 20 percent by the end of 2015.
I’m very proud say that General Mills has met or exceeded our stated goal in seven of ten categories, with reductions across the 10 categories ranging from 18 to 35 percent.
This industry-leading effort encompasses sodium reduction initiatives on more than 350 of the company’s products, or more than one-third of our current U.S. 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 percent target, including a 19 percent sodium reduction in ready-to-serve soup, a 19 percent reduction in Mexican products and an 18 percent reduction in cereal.
This infographic summarizes the progress we have made in each of our 10 categories.
At General Mills, we’re committed to providing people with convenient, nutritious food that – when combined with exercise and activity – can help them on their wellness journey.
Sodium reduction has been effort key focus of our continuing efforts to improve the health profile of our products.
When we set our 2015 target, we knew it would be a challenge, given the many roles sodium can play in our product recipes.
Our approach has been a gradual reduction of sodium over several years using small, incremental changes. We refer to this as stealth health, which gives people time to adapt their palates to the lower sodium.
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.
This gradual approach helped us achieve sodium reductions of between 10 and 30 percent for more than 40 Green Giant and Le Sueur shelf stable vegetable products including corn, green beans, asparagus, and mushrooms. (Editor’s note: General Mills completed the sale of Green Giant to B&G Foods on November 2, 2015).
Another way we have been able to successfully reduce sodium in our recipes has been to increase spices. This was instrumental in our work to lower sodium for our Helper products. We successfully reduced sodium in 30 varieties, in part, by enhancing flavors and spices such as garlic, onion, tomato, spices and herbs.
Between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2014, these 30 varieties underwent sodium reductions of between 10 and 44 percent per serving (as prepared).
Simply using less sodium in a recipe isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you are a home baker, you may know how variations in sodium-containing ingredients like salt, baking soda or baking powder can have on a recipe. If you put in too little baking soda, your cake could fall flat. This happens because sodium-containing ingredients, like baking soda, have a job to do. If an ingredient is reduced, there may be an unintended result.
For example, early on in our work to reduce the sodium in some of our refrigerated dough products, we were experiencing an issue where the packaging would pop open. We found that reducing the salt affected the leavening and caused excess air to form in the dough, which broke the seals.
In other instances, when we reduced baking soda, the dough turned gray, instead of white. In these products, we had to balance sodium reduction while ensuring the product met consumer expectations.
I am very proud to have exceeded our goals in seven of our 10 key categories and to have much such significant progress in the remaining three.
General Mills has been focused on nutritional improvements since 2005, when we first established our “Health Metric” to track progress across our 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, we accelerated our sodium reduction efforts by publicly stating our pledge to reduce sodium by 20 percent in 10 key product categories.
Nutritional improvements can only be successful if they are successful with our consumers. In other words, they still have to taste great.
We set a very high bar and are very committed to keeping our products relevant for the many consumers we serve.
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