Zurich - Nestle SA is cutting the salt content of one of its zestiest brands Maggi noodles, soups and seasonings as the world’s largest food company responds to consumer and government demands for healthier products.
The Swiss company plans a 10 percent average salt reduction across Maggi’s range by 2020, while adding more vegetables and other nutrient-rich ingredients. The changes, announced Tuesday, are part of a company-wide initiative to reduce sodium, saturated fat and sugar.
“Maggi will push the envelope to certainly be ahead of our commitments,” Wayne England, the head of Nestlé’s food business, said in a phone interview, adding that he expected the brand’s sales to increase as a result.
The move comes at a time when big food companies such as Mondelez International and Unilever try to introduce healthier products as governments implement sugar taxes and seek to cap sodium levels. The industry has struggled with slowing sales as consumers increasingly shun packaged food they perceive as unhealthy and laden with artificial ingredients. Millennials, attracted to organic produce and food from local sources, are accelerating the shift.
While the salt reductions for Maggi are in line with Nestlé’s broader targets, the change in one of its biggest and saltiest ranges deepens the company’s commitment to meeting them. Maggi generated sales of about 3 billion francs ($3.1 billion) to 4 billion francs last year, estimates Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Bank Vontobel AG. Noodles and bouillon cubes are the brand’s best-selling products, he added.
Food companies revamped about 180 000 products worldwide in 2016, up from some 23 000 in 2014, according to a Consumer Goods Forum survey released last year. Nestle has been adapting about 8 000 products a year. Balancing demands for healthier food with consumer tastes can be tricky.
“Companies don’t want to do anything that might cause
customers to stop buying products,” said Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor
The revamp, which also includes selling more Maggi products
with extra iodine, iron and vitamin A, will probably spur demand,
Still, the industry could be more aggressive because consumers will probably accept even bigger cuts in salt, according to Leith Greenslade, head of JustActions, a group that campaigns on health and other issues. She cited a study showing a 70 percent cut in processed meat didn’t lead to any significant backlash from shoppers.