Salt Reduction

Delivering great value with lower sodium in own-brand foods

Own-brand products are enjoying more popularity than ever. The rise of big supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl mean more people are buying own-brand products. And own-label ranges are expanding in supermarkets around the world. A recent study found that own-label sales are currently 54% of the grocery market.

With more consumers buying own-brand products, it’s a good time to shine a spotlight on the nutritional profile of these foods. We had a look at a sample of own-brand products from leading retailers around the world, and noticed how the salt and sodium in these foods often fails to measure up to guidance from the FDA, PHE, and WHO.

Supermarkets and food manufacturers do have an opportunity however to create a real point of difference in own-brand ranges by using SALTWELL® – which is naturally low in sodium by 35% – as a complete replacement for standard salt and deliver the same flavours, textures and consumer experiences in the food products – but with significantly less salt/sodium.

Supermarket bread

The 2024 global sodium benchmark for bread is 330mg of sodium per 100g.

The modern bread market has expanded to include multiple formats, from loaves to wraps, rolls, and thins. Grains are more varied than ever, too, with health-conscious shoppers choosing wholegrain breads. Following these trends, supermarkets have put their own-brand versions on store shelves. But many of these have a big salt problem, just like leading brand baked goods. 

Recent research in the UK conducted by Action on Salt revealed some supermarket sliced bread to be saltier per serve than 2x small portions of McDonald’s French fries.  

The “farmhouse” loaf, which is typically a bit chunkier than the standard loaf, with thicker slices is also a popular supermarket own bread. A British supermarket own brand farmhouse loaf has 440mg of sodium per 100g which exceeds the 2024 salt targets. 

Some European multinational supermarkets have own-label seeded rolls with 420mg of sodium per 100g, and tortilla wraps with 388mg of sodium per 100g. Also exceeding the 2024 salt and sodium guidelines for bread of 330mg of sodium per 100g.

The saltiest own-label baked goods we found were from a big US supermarket. This retailer has a garlic bread loaf with 580mg of sodium per 100g, and burger buns with 589mg of sodium per 100g. These products exceed both the WHO benchmark, and the FDA guidance of 550mg of sodium per 100g.

Supermarket pizzas 

Both fresh and frozen pizzas have seen a boost in sales since the pandemic, and now with tighter household budgets, consumers are continuing to buy make-at-home pizzas instead of more expensive delivery options. 

Unfortunately, this universally loved food is also one of the saltiest. It’s named by the American Heart Association as one of the notorious “Salty Six” highest sodium foods. From the sauce, to the crust, the cheese, and the toppings, pizzas have a big salt problem.

This was just as true for the own-brand pizzas we looked at. In fact, in our sample of pizzas from Europe, the US and Canada, there were no products at or below the WHO sodium benchmark of 450mg per 100g for pizza.  

The saltiest were a Salami pizza from a UK supermarket with 592mg of sodium per 100g, a “supreme” pizza from the US with 620mg of sodium per 100g, and a ham pizza in France with 640mg of sodium per 100g. On average, these supermarket products exceed sodium guidance by over a third. 

Supermarket cold cuts and deli meats

Whether it’s a fancy charcuterie board, or a humble ham sandwich, deli meats and cold cuts are always a favourite. 

But salt levels are typically high in processed meats. As a key functional ingredient, it’s necessary in the production of deli meats – although many products contain far more salt than is needed for flavour or processing. 

One of the biggest European supermarkets has an own-brand Italian-style ham with 680mg of sodium per 100g. A big US supermarket’s own-brand classic sliced baked ham has 1150mg of sodium per 100g. That is far in excess of the WHO sodium benchmark for luncheon meat, set at 540mg of sodium per 100g.

We found other products that were way above the much higher FDA sodium guidance of 1,270mg per 100g. The second-saltiest own-brand deli meat we found was from a French multinational supermarket. Their Italian cured ham slices have 1,960mg of sodium per 100g. 

But the saltiest deli product we found in own-brand ranges is one from a UK supermarket. Their Italian cured beef slices have 1,968mg of sodium per 100g. That’s 55% over the FDA sodium guidance. 

Supermarket cheeses

The FDA has over 15 subcategories for cheese in its sodium guidance, while the WHO provides benchmarks for 5 subcategories of cheese. We looked at some of the most widely used household cheeses in own-brand ranges to see how they stacked up.

One of the highest sodium cheese products is a plant-based cheddar-style product from a popular global discount supermarket. The WHO places plant-based cheeses in the processed cheese category with a benchmark of 720mg of sodium per 100g. The product we found has 920mg of sodium per 100g – 28% over the benchmark.

A supermarket in Europe has own-brand selections of two of the most popular household cheeses: Edam and Gouda. The Gouda exceeds the WHO sodium benchmark by 200mg per 100g. The Edam, with 1,000mg of sodium per 100g, exceeds the FDA guidance for Edam by 90mg per 100g, and is nearly double the WHO benchmark of 520mg per 100g.

The highest sodium own-brand cheese we discovered is a processed American cheese sold by a big US supermarket. While it may be a great value option, the 1,450mg of sodium per 100g is not great for heart health. It’s double the WHO benchmark for processed cheese, with just two slices containing over 25% of the RDI for sodium. 

Developing healthier own-brand ranges

Supermarkets and food manufacturers have an opportunity to create a real point of difference in own-brand ranges. By using SALTWELL® – which is naturally low in sodium by 35% – as a 1:1 replacement for standard salt it’s possible to deliver the same flavours, textures and consumer experience – but with significantly less sodium.

The key to easy clean-label sodium reduction in processed food is using SALTWELL®. As the simple 1:1 replacement for standard salt, SALTWELL® provides the same smooth, natural salty flavour profile. With the added benefits of being 35% low in sodium and clean label. 

SALTWELL® is available in a full range, from microfine to coarse grains, meaning there’s a SALTWELL® sea salt grade for every application.

If you’re ready to provide less salt and lower sodium in higher value lines, then we are ready to help. To learn more, get in touch or request a sample.