MARSHALL, Minn. – Earlier this year, Schwan’s Food Service Inc. (S.F.S.I.) committed to reducing the sodium in its school pizzas by 10% by the fall of 2011. Dedicated efforts have resulted in sodium reductions exceeding that goal as early as this fall. S.F.S.I., the largest supplier of pizza to the National School Lunch Program, currently works with approximately 75% of the nation’s more than 96,000 schools.

The company has achieved positive results with the reformulation of its Big Daddy’s brand, which represents approximately one-third of its school pizza business, said Michael Wiser, senior marketing director for Schwan’s Food Service, at the 64th annual School Nutrition Association’s show.

“We’re pleased to inform our school customers that this fall, 12 months earlier than anticipated, they will be able to offer their students a variety of Big Daddy’s pizzas with a 15% to 25% reduction in sodium,” he said.

He added this is a meaningful start to additional work that is being done by the company in the area of sodium reduction.

“For more than a year, we’ve researched sodium reduction for Big Daddy’s pizza,” said Sean Trygestad, pizza category marketing manager. “Our primary goal, in addition to reducing sodium, has been to retain and enhance the taste quality, ensuring that students would continue to enjoy the pizza.”

Taste tests were held with students throughout the process to confirm that the reduced sodium products performed as well as the original recipes. Final results were achieved through a reduction of salt as well as the use of sea salt.

“All pizza is not created equal,” Wiser said. "For 35 years, S.F.S.I. has focused on the nutrition of children, understanding that feeding America’s children at school is an enormous responsibility.

“On average, one slice of Schwan’s Food Service’s cheese pizza provides as much calcium as an 8-oz. glass of milk, as much fiber as a slice of whole grain bread and the equivalent of an eighth-cup of vegetables…all for less than 400 calories,” Wiser said.

All subsidiaries of The Schwan Food Company have implemented internal guidelines specific to sodium and fat since 2007, anticipating the ongoing evolution of nutrition science and the Dietary Guidelines. Work has been ongoing at Schwan’s Research and Development since that time and S.F.S.I. has led the way in sodium reduction with these pizza products. The balance between taste and nutrition, two attributes of Schwan’s Food Service’s school pizza, is delicate.

Children and teens eat a variety of foods during the week at school — balance is the key. “We know that pizza is a favorite choice, and we believe it’s our responsibility to make these products as nutritious as we can,” Wiser said.

Thanks to this reduction in sodium in the Big Daddy’s products, S.F.S.I. said it is well on its way to meeting the Institute of Medicine’s recent recommendation to reduce sodium over the next 10 years in the school-meal program.

Schwan’s Food Service Inc., a subsidiary of The Schwan Food Company based in Marshall, Minn., offers value-added frozen foods to foodservice operators through more than 1,800 active distributors.