OMAHA — ConAgra Foods, Inc. announced plans to reduce sodium levels across its portfolio of products by 20% by 2015. ConAgra’s announcement follows in the footsteps of other consumer packaged goods companies such as the Campbell Soup Co. and Unilever that also have announced sodium reduction initiatives.

"Sodium reduction is part of our ongoing work to make food more nutritious," said Gary Rodkin, chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods. "Americans need less salt in their diets, and they want less salt in their diets. We have the capability to meet consumer wants and needs — food people love not only because it tastes good, but also because it’s better for them."

As part of its announcement, ConAgra Foods cited a HealthFocus Trend Report that noted both interest in and use of lower salt options among primary grocery shoppers had increased dramatically over the past four years. In 2004, 19% of shoppers indicated they used low-sodium products once a week or more, compared to 41% using low-sodium products once a week or more in 2008.

ConAgra Foods said its sodium reduction effort will include 20 brand and 160 product formulas across many categories in the supermarket.

"ConAgra Foods has the ability to make an impact on sodium in a very broad way," said Al Bolles, executive vice-president of research, quality and innovation. "What that means is that we’ll need to use different techniques to keep or enhance the taste of all types of food in our portfolio, from Hunt’s tomatoes to Marie Callender’s convenient meals to Fleischmann’s table spreads. This is a definite challenge — but one that is very worthwhile and one we are confident that we can meet."

The company also said it will track its work in sodium reduction and make it publicly available each year through the ConAgra Foods Corporate Social Responsibility report that is published at