Australia's Department of Health and Ageing announced at the end of November that salt levels in soups sold there will be reduced over the next three years.
Leading manufacturers including Unilever, Campbell, Arnotts, and Nestlé, as well as nationwide retailers including Woolworths, Coles and Aldi, have signed up to the deal.
Under the agreement, companies will reduce sodium content in dry soups to 290mg of per 100g of product.
They will also reduce sodium in wet and condensed soups to an average target of 290mg per 100g of product with a maximum target of 300mg per 100g of product.
While, to some, the cuts translate as more pressure on Australian food manufacturing, Geoffrey Annison, deputy chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) told FoodNavigator-Asia.com the industry is prepared.
Annison, who is also the director of health, nutrition, and scientific affairs at the Council, said “First of all these cuts are voluntary and only apply to mainstream products made by companies which are a part of the agreement.
Secondly, the manufacturers are free to determine the amount of reduction per year,” he said.
The latter, Annison pointed out, would help companies gradually introduce salt replacements in their products, or “increase the level of other ingredients so as to not drastically change the taste profile of these products.”
Brand owners would also be able to introduce these cuts into their normal product development cycle, said Annison. This would thus allow the sector, he added, to gradually change the taste profile and not cause any damage to product reputation.
“I also think that companies would be able to leverage these cuts as a competitive advantage. Soup products with lesser salt can be positioned and promoted as healthier soups,” he adds.
Annison also pointed out that soups sold in Australia already have some of the lowest sodium levels when compared to markets like the US, and so the change would not be drastic.
These cuts, which have been announced under the Food and Health Dialogue, follow earlier commitments by the food industry to reduce the sodium content of breads, breakfast cereals, sauces and processed meats sold in Australia.
“Next in line for cuts would be meat pies and processed poultry. No discussions have been held on these yet, but are likely to be held next year,” Annison said.