2009 Consumer Sodium Research: Concern, Perceptions and Action

Research Report (PDF)

Research Objective: To understand consumer perceptions and actions toward sodium.

To achieve this objective, the study assessed the following issues:

  • Consumer understanding of sodium’s impact on health
  • Awareness of sodium levels in the diet
  • How sodium ranks compared to other factors that contribute to a healthful diet
  • Current measures consumers are taking regarding sodium consumption
  • Preferences regarding sodium communication
  • Perceptions of low-sodium products

Executive Summary

Sodium awareness is low.

  • Nearly half of all consumers are not sure how much sodium a healthy individual should consume, or what they personally consume.
  • While Americans say they would reference a food label or package to identify whether a product is high or low in sodium, many are unable to identify, in milligrams, the amount per serving for which they would consider a product high or low in sodium.
  • Consumers do not realize that foods individually low in sodium may contribute significantly to the amount of sodium in their overall diet through repetitious eating.

Americans are not concerned with their personal sodium intake.

  • About six in 10 of all consumers are not concerned with their sodium consumption, but think others should be, including people who are overweight or have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
  • In the context of factors that contribute to a healthy diet, increasing fruits, vegetables and fiber, and limiting saturated fat are ranked higher in importance than limiting sodium.

Sodium action is highly correlated with age.

  • The majority of Americans age 55+ are currently trying to limit the sodium in their diet primarily because they are trying to manage a current health condition like heart disease or high blood pressure or improve overall health.
  • Americans age 24-35 are more likely to say they are interested in limiting sodium but have never tried. Those ages 18-24 are split between being interested in trying to limit sodium but not yet taking steps to do so, and feeling they do not need to limit sodium.

People are taking steps to improve the healthfulness of their diets, but limiting sodium is rarely one of those steps.

  • When using a nutrient content claim to make a purchasing decision, low-fat and low-calorie are most appealing.
  • Consumers say the top five ways to contribute to a healthy diet include: increasing fruits and vegetables, increasing fiber, limiting saturated fat, limiting sugar and limiting trans fat.
  • Despite the fact that consumers believe most of the sodium in their diet comes from processed or packaged foods, people who are trying to limit their sodium intake focus primarily on reducing the amount of salt added to foods while cooking and after preparation.