Heinz cuts sodium content by 15% in ketchup, but U.S. market share grows to 47.4% despite initial backlash, company says; Campbell Soup criticized for its attempts at reducing sodium, may backtrack on effort

LOS ANGELES , August 10, 2011 () – Just over a year ago, the H.J. Heinz Co. announced it would change the recipe of its ketchup for the first time in decades by reducing sodium content 15%, but consumers went online and reacted with anger and fear of potential changes, The Republic reported Aug. 10.

Despite the initial backlash at the changes, Heinz’s volume share of the U.S. market increased slightly to 47.4%, the company reported earlier this year based on data from the Neilson Co. That information does not include sales from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. or warehouse clubs.

Before making the changes, Heinz used rigorous taste testing with some of its dedicated consumers and did not field any complaints after the change was made, according to spokesperson Jessica Jackson.

While Heinz has been successful in its change, companies such as the Campbell Soup Co. have not been as successful pushing consumers toward healthier eating, in particular by reducing sodium, which is seen as a factor in ailments such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

After attempting to reduce sodium in its products, Campbell found that consumers did not enjoy the flavor of a number of its Select Harvest soups. Campbell intimated in statements last month that it may backtrack in its efforts to cut sodium content in its soups, and could potentially add more in some cases.

The advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a statement in response to Campbell’s, criticizing the changes and asking the company to consider adding flavor to its products by using ingredients other than salt.

A news release was subsequently issued by Campbell reiterating its plan to produce reduced sodium offerings for health conscious consumers, and noting that sodium had already been reduced in some of its products.

With taste driving people’s decisions, consumers are only likely to eat healthy to a point, vice president of market research at NPD Group Inc. Harry Balzer said. With everyone possessing a slightly unique taste experience problems may not be avoided, even with advanced testing, he added.

The primary source of this article is The Republic, Columbus, Indiana, on August 10, 2011.

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