CHICAGO — The number of new food and beverage products featuring low/no/reduced sodium claims has declined in the past few years, according to the market research firm Mintel International.

“A large percentage of the global food industry remains wary of the commercial impacts of reducing salt in their products,” said Chris Brockman, global food and drink analyst at Mintel. “This anxiety is well-founded, with many products positioned as low sodium forced off the shelves prematurely in recent years due to poor sales.

“Manufacturers struggled to find workable salt substitutes, forcing many to rapidly pull them from the market. Efforts are being made to offer consumers alternatives to sodium. However, existing salt replacements have not caught the imagination of consumers. Consumers are concerned about salt intake, but are not willing to compromise on taste.”

Data provided through Mintel’s Global New Products Database shows that Europe is the most active region in terms of products introduced featuring sodium reduction claims. North America is second.

Despite the slowing of product introductions featuring sodium reduction claims, consumers appear to be interested, with 54% of U.S. consumers telling Mintel they limit their use of packaged snacks and other packaged foods because they think they have too much salt or sodium, and 53% are concerned about the amount of salt or sodium in their diets.

“Brands will need to dispel widely held perception about low sodium or salt alternatives to be successful,” Mr. Brockman said. “Fortunately, this is possible. Many food brands are already introducing step-by-step salt reduction programs that gradually reduce the salt content of their products, a strategy often called ‘stealth health,’ as the incremental removal of sodium can be carried out over a period of time to help the consumer to become accustomed to the changed flavor profile, without the need to flag that up prominently on-pack and thus deter consumers who may perceive ‘less taste.’ Other brands are also steering clear of the health issue by experimenting with different flavor profiles, such as strong spices and vinegars, to enhance taste while eliminating sodium.”