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General Mills Progressing on Sodium Reduction

General Mills reported on progress it has made against its publicly stated commitment to reduce sodium by 20 percent across 10 key U.S. retail product categories by the end of 2015. General Mills has met or exceeded its stated goal in seven of 10 categories, with reductions across the 10 categories ranging from 18 to 35 percent.

The effort encompasses sodium reduction initiatives on more than 350 of the company’s products, or more than one-third of its current U.S. retail sales volume. The categories include cereals, dry dinners, frozen pizza, Mexican dinners, refrigerated dough products, savory snacks, canned vegetables, side dishes, soups, and variety baking mixes.  

Significant progress was also made in the three categories in which General Mills did not meet the aggressive 20 percent target, including a 19 percent sodium reduction in ready-to-serve soup, a 19 percent reduction in Mexican products and an 18 percent reduction in cereal.

“Sodium reduction has been effort key focus of our continuing efforts to improve the health profile of our products,” said Maha Tahiri, General Mills chief health and wellness officer and vice president, Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. “Reducing sodium is not a simple task and we knew the 20 percent target would be a challenge. I am proud to have exceeded our very aggressive goals in seven of our key 10 categories, and to have come so very close in others.”

General Mills has taken a gradual approach to sodium reduction over time using small, incremental steps to introduce the changes gradually, giving people time to adapt their palates to the lower sodium levels.

“Taste is the main driver of food purchases – and we believe making repeated changes to accomplish a series of gradual reductions is the best way to continue to deliver the great taste consumers expect, while also supporting our commitment to the goal of reducing sodium intake in the American diet,” said Tahiri.

Product developers have been able to reduce sodium in some recipes by adding additional spices to ensure the flavor of the food remains vibrant, and in others by adjusting the placement of the sodium –moving it to the food’s surface, for example, so it’s more readily tasted.

General Mills has been focused on nutritional improvements since 2005, when it first established its “Health Metric” to track progress across its product portfolio. Improvements have included enhancing foods and nutrients to encourage such as whole grain, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and reducing nutrients of concern such as calories, sodium, sugar and fat, all while ensuring great taste. In 2010, the company accelerated its sodium reduction efforts by publicly stating its pledge to reduce sodium by 20 percent in 10 key product categories. 

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