Foster Farms commissioned an NSON Opinion Strategy survey of 1,000 West Coast consumers in April. The survey found that most consumers are highly aware of sodium intake and are increasingly skeptical of "natural" and "healthy" labels. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer fresh, minimally processed foods for a healthy diet, according to Foster Farms. The survey also found consumers are now highly aware of added sodium in supposedly healthy foods like "plumped" chicken. The survey also revealed that:
? 77% of consumers polled watch sodium intake at least some of the time, with 62% watching intake all or most of the time now, compared to 53% last year.
? 70% believe that even food labeled "natural" or "healthy" can be harmful to health. Only 4% of consumers consider foods labeled "natural" to be the healthiest choice.
? While 55% of consumers believe foods low in sodium can be considered healthy, most consumers (90%) ultimately trust fresh, minimally processed foods as truly healthy and natural.
? 70% say it is unnecessary for companies to engineer lower-salt alternatives like "designer" salt and that companies should have kept sodium naturally low in the first place.
? 62% are concerned by what they read on food labels; 30% feel "overwhelmed." One-third of consumers feel that shopping for healthy foods has become too complicated. These consumers don't know "who or what to trust" and feel that the "rules" of what constitutes healthy food are always changing.
? The majority of consumers (56%) feel that labels are only somewhat accurate (and therefore less reliable).
? 70% of consumers are now aware that some fresh, raw, unseasoned chicken labeled "natural" at the grocery store may have been injected or plumped with up to 15% or $1.50 worth of saltwater. This compared to 37% percent last year. According to the survey, 86% of respondents say they don't think fresh chicken plumped with saltwater should be allowed to be labeled "natural," the company said.
"We launched 'Say No to Plumping' last year to make consumers more aware of hidden sodium in fresh foods, specifically fresh, raw chicken," said Ira Brill, director of communications. "This survey affirms not only that we succeeded in raising awareness, but that consumers care enough to take action. More than 50,000 consumers have already signed a petition urging the U.S.D.A. to stop allowing 'plumped' chicken to be labeled "natural." It's a sign that there is a growing consumer movement to reclaim "natural" and choose simple, fresh foods that they don't have to decode.
"This year, we want to inspire consumers to spread the word further, take action against misleading labeling, and help their family and friends know what to look for in healthy foods," he added. "Fresh chicken is a staple for many families' healthy diets and consumers should be able to trust that they are getting the nutritious ingredient they expect, not a salt-laden imitation."
Foster Farms' "Say No to Plumping" program includes the return of the Foster Imposters in the company's Shady Surgeon and Supermarket advertisements on television (available online at www.fosterfarms.com), refreshed content on its website, www.saynotoplumping.com, and upcoming promotions on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SayNotoPlumping). The company will bring the campaign to consumer events and festivals throughout the West Coast all summer long.
"Consumers are fed up with having to over-think food," said Nancy Bennett, MS, RD, CDE, Foster Farms' nutritionist. "An easy solution is to stick to foods that you know are good choices: 70% of our sodium intake actually comes from processed foods. So to really reduce salt in your diet, aim to eat most of your foods in their purest, simplest form. For chicken, that means sticking to fresh, raw chicken with less than 75 mg of sodium per serving."
Label comparisons of fresh chicken reveal that one 4-ounce serving of plumped chicken could contain as much as 440 mg of sodium, over 500% more than chicken that has not been plumped, according to Foster Farms. Based on the Center for Disease Control's dietary guidelines of 1,500 mg per day or less of sodium, eating just one, unseasoned serving of some brands' poultry could add up to nearly one-third of the recommended daily intake. From an economic standpoint, it also means that a family of four could spend more than $150 annually on saltwater alone, the company contends.