Loblaw announces accelerated plan to reduce sodium levels by average of 20% in 400 products in its President's Choice private-label line in 2014, 2015, with focus on sauces, dressings, bakery items

BRAMPTON, Ontario , May 2, 2014 (press release) – Galen G. Weston, Executive Chairman of Loblaw Companies Limited (Loblaw), today committed to reducing sodium levels by an average of 20 per cent across the company's own President's Choice® line of products. President's Choice®, Canada's top-selling consumer brand, includes more than 3,800 products across fresh, frozen and dry grocery categories. Nearly 1,500 contain measurable amounts of sodium.

Loblaw began its sodium-reduction mandate in 2010. In the past four years, it has eliminated nearly 150,000 kilograms of sodium across 471 products under its President's Choice®, no name®, Farmer's Market™ and other control brands. It has also introduced hundreds of new products with lowered sodium levels.

Today, the company announced an accelerated plan to reduce sodium levels by 20 per cent across 400 products within the President's Choice® line in 2014 and 2015. The program will include a focus on categories that have traditionally posed the greatest challenge for salt reduction, including sauces, dressings and bakery items.

Speaking today at the annual general meeting of Loblaw Companies Limited, Galen G. Weston said the following:

"It used to be that the tastiness of a snack or meal could be measured in its saltiness - its sodium content. To some degree that hasn't changed. And, while many Canadians have learned to better control their own salt shaker, food manufacturers still wield an industrial-sized shaker, controlling the unseen sodium that seasons the Canadian diet.

While sodium is important for a human diet, reducing sodium is important for the national diet. It is a Canadian imperative.

Sodium plays a positive role in the taste, safety and even cost of food. It plays a negative role in heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other health conditions. This means, food manufacturers must strike a delicate balance in the products they create.

Over the last thirty years as an industry, we have been too far on the wrong side. Today, I pledge that our company is moving further to the right side of that balance. We will reduce sodium levels by an average of 20 per cent across our own President's Choice® line of products in 2014 and 2015.

Loblaw began this initiative in 2010 and has assigned significant resources, assembled dedicated experts and scientists, and set a specific mandate. We have already made significant progress, eliminating 150,000 kg of sodium across hundreds of products.

By the end of 2015, we will have put every single President's Choice® product under the microscope and removed every extra bit of sodium, while maintaining the food safety and taste our customers expect. Our focus will be on the categories of processed and prepared foods where sodium levels are highest.

This won't be easy. It will require new ingredients, formulations, packaging and food technology. As is the way with President's Choice®, innovation will feature heavily.

Our recent successes with sodium speak volumes: President's Choice® Crumpets cut one-third; seven varieties of oatmeal cut 43 per cent; tortillas and soy beverages cut by half. When we set our sights, we make progress.

We won't be paternalistic about sodium, we'll be wise. Where it can be removed without effect, it will be gone. Where it is fundamental and cannot be significantly reduced, it will stay in the lowest quantity possible. Where the cost of substitutes - often many-times more expensive than sodium - drastically impacts consumer prices, we will have tough decisions to make.

Over the past couple of years, the Government of Canada has taken a stand on sodium consumption - establishing voluntary reduction targets for the industry while at the same time acknowledging the challenges. We applaud the government. And, we are committed to being an industry-leading champion of these efforts, in support of the Canadian consumer."

About Loblaw Companies Limited

Loblaw Companies Limited is Canada's food and pharmacy leader, the nation's largest retailer, and the majority unitholder of Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust. Loblaw provides Canadians with grocery, pharmacy, health and beauty, apparel, general merchandise, banking, and wireless mobile products and services. With more than 2,300 corporate, franchised and Associate-owned locations, Loblaw, its franchisees, and Associate-owners employ approximately 192,000 full- and part-time employees, making it one of Canada's largest private sector employers.

Loblaw's purpose - Live Life Well - puts first the needs and well-being of Canadians who make one billion transactions annually in the companies' stores. Loblaw is positioned to meet and exceed those needs in many ways: convenient locations; more than 1,050 grocery stores that span the value spectrum from discount to specialty; full-service pharmacies at more than 1,250 Shoppers Drug Mart® and Pharmaprix® locations and more than 500 Loblaw locations PC Financial® no-fee banking; affordable Joe Fresh® fashion and family apparel; and three of Canada's top consumer brands in Life Brand®, no name® and President's Choice®. Through the PC Plus™ and Shoppers Optimum® loyalty programs, more than one in every three Canadians are rewarded for shopping with the companies.

SOURCE Loblaw Companies Limited

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