Nestlé Prepared Foods Co. announced a comprehensive plan to decrease the sodium content in its products by another 10 percent from reductions made earlier this decade. This major initiative will carry through 2015 and includes the company’s popular STOUFFER’S®, LEAN CUISINE®, BUITONI®, HOT POCKETS® and LEAN POCKETS® brands which will undergo gradual but steady recipe changes in order to bring down sodium levels without impacting taste.
“We are dedicated to helping people improve their overall wellness by providing convenient, wholesome and delicious foods. That’s what we mean by “Good Food, Good Life,” the statement that appears on a number of our consumer communications,” said Brad Alford, chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA in a prepared statement. “Adjusting our sodium levels is part of our broader effort to create delicious and nutritious options that contribute to healthier lifestyles.”
The most recent example of the company’s ongoing efforts to provide sound nutrition balanced with great taste are STOUFFER’S® Farmers’ Harvest™ meals, to be available nationally by year’s end. The Farmers’ Harvest™ portfolio includes three new family size meals and seven new individual servings of classic but updated favorites like Macaroni & Cheese and Lasagna.
Taste is assured by the use of high-quality ingredients such as sea salt, olive oil and real cheese. Whole grains are featured in eight of the recipes while four of the individual meals feature ½ cup of vegetables. Sodium content for these ten varieties ranges from 660-950 mg (28 percent to 40 percent DV or Percent Daily Value).
“Now is the perfect time to introduce Farmers’ Harvest™,” Alford said. “Consumers live in an “and” world. They want great taste and sound nutrition, convenience and variety. This is exactly the need Farmer’s Harvest meets by offering a convenient and delicious way to satisfy both taste and nutrition needs.”
Modernizing Macaroni & Cheese is another way that Nestlé has improved the nutritional profile and sodium content of its offerings, while still assuring taste. First introduced in 1954, the company’s top-selling STOUFFER’S® Macaroni & Cheese is now available in a variety made with whole grain, introduced in the Farmers’ Harvest™ range.
In addition, classic STOUFFER’S® Macaroni & Cheese has decreased sodium levels of its 20-ounce and 12-ounce packages from 920 mg per serving to 820 mg per serving (from 38 percent DV to 34 percent DV, an average decrease of 10 percent) since 2005. The average sodium level for the entire range of STOUFFER’S® meals is now at 876 mg (36.5 percent DV).
The changes to sodium content were made gradually, since consumer research consistently has shown that consumers often associate sodium reduction with reduced flavor. With this approach of stepwise, moderate reductions, Nestlé has managed to avoid negative reactions as well as helping consumers gradually adapt their taste for salt, making their choices more likely to last.
“We’ve taken a ‘slow but steady’ approach to updating our Macaroni & Cheese,” Alford recalled. “We wanted to make this change in a way that consumers would adapt to easily and enjoyably. As it turns out, ‘slow and steady’ has been a successful approach in transitioning this American favorite to this new sodium level.”
STOUFFER’S® is not the only brand within the Nestlé Prepared Foods Company roster to gradually decrease sodium levels over the years. LEAN CUISINE® was introduced to the American marketplace in 1981 with 10 products; average sodium levels were then at or above 1,000 mg. Today, LEAN CUISINE® offers 123 varieties with an average sodium level of 606 mg (25 percent DV).
Within the LEAN CUISINE® line, fifteen SPA CUISINE™ and eight new MARKET CREATIONS items all contain ½ cup vegetables (2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day; one serving equals ½ cup). Fifteen LEAN CUISINE® items are made with 100 percent whole grain pasta. Ten varieties of LEAN CUISINE® feature seafood, which provides an excellent source of omega-3.
From its Denver-based business, Nestlé offers 69 handheld products marketed under HOT POCKETS® and LEAN POCKETS® brand sandwiches. These convenient items also have benefited from gradual sodium reduction strategies which began in 2005. Current average sodium content across these products is 610 mg per serving (25 percent DV). As well, LEAN POCKETS® now offers eight varieties featuring whole grain crusts.
BUITONI® Refrigerated Pastas also have heeded consumer requests for tasty and nutritious choices. In 2005, when the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommended that Americans consume more whole grains, BUITONI® invited consumers to try their whole wheat ravioli, linguine and tortellini varieties.
“As part of the world’s largest food company, our Nestlé businesses have access to a depth of knowledge and expertise that is unmatched,” said Alford. “Working with Nestlé S.A., we have established Nutrition Foundations for our key brands and used the guidance provided by the Nestlé S.A. policies on sodium, sugar, and trans fat to shape the product development work at Nestlé Prepared Foods Co. We are pleased to be able to offer American favorites that deliver delicious taste and thoughtful nutrition in every bite.”