Josh Sosland: Sodium picture a troubling one for baking

by Josh Sosland
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Among the many nutritional issues swirling around these days, three stand above the rest — added sugars, added fats and sodium. Nutritionists believe reducing intake of each is key to improving the nation’s health.

For bakers of bread and rolls, sodium represents the principal problem within this threesome. The current recommendation is to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, but the average intake is 3,400 mg. Grain products (led by bread and rolls) account for 730 mg, or 21% of total sodium intake, the largest source of any food category (meats rank second at 15.7%).

The picture is troubling for the industry for many reasons. The 730 mg equate to 32% of the targeted 2,300 mg and a whopping 48% of a 1,500 mg target that has been floated by certain nutritionists as a more appropriate intake level. Meanwhile, hardly a day passes when a prominent food company does not announce plans to reduce sodium in its products in the next few years. Most involved are not grain-based food.

PepsiCo made such an announcement last week, and Kraft made a similar announcement earlier in March.

As other food categories cut back, grain-based foods will stand out more and more as a major sodium source. Bakers note that they have made significant strides in reducing sodium in the past generation and that on a per-serving basis, baked foods are not high in sodium. While true, these points ignore the reality of the current environment. By all appearances, there is no standing still when it comes to sodium.

If bakers choose to do nothing, they will fall further behind other food groups, leaving baked foods vulnerable to attack. In their announcements, both Kraft and PepsiCo described plans for incremental reductions in coming years to help consumers adjust to formulation changes. For bakers, the clock on such incremental change has begun to run, and the ticking is growing louder.

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