ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha, Neb., today pledged to reduce salt across its portfolio of food products by 20 percent by 2015. Since 2006, the company has already removed more than 2 million pounds of salt from it products. Today’s pledge adds 8 million pounds of salt to the equation, with the company ultimately removing 10 million pounds of salt from American diets each year.

“Sodium reduction is part of our ongoing work to make food more nutritious,” said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods CEO. “Americans need less salt in their diets, and they want less salt in their diets. We have the capability to meet consumer wants and needs-food people love not only because it tastes good, but also because it’s better for them.”

ConAgra cited a HealthFocus Trend Report, which notes that both interest in and use of lower salt options among primary grocery shoppers has increased dramatically during the past four years. In 2004, 19 percent of shoppers indicated they used low-sodium products once a week or more, compared to 41 percent using low-sodium products once a week or more in 2008.

Building on the knowledge and expertise gained through their development of recipes for Healthy Choice, ConAgra Foods said its chefs and scientists have worked diligently since 2006 to reduce salt in various brands, such as Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn and Chef Boyardee pasta. To date, this work has resulted in 2 million fewer pounds of salt per year in the domestic food supply.

Over the past few years, several respected public health authorities, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the American Heart Association, have solidified their position on the importance of reducing sodium intake. Research released earlier this year by two different groups1 calculated the potential health and economic benefits of sodium reduction to the American public. Based upon those estimates it is projected that, if the food industry were to follow ConAgra Foods’ lead and reduce salt by 20 percent across product portfolios, U.S. medical costs might be reduced by as much as $4 billion to $10 billion annually.

The scope of the ConAgra Foods’ salt reduction is broad and diverse, including as many as 20 brands, 160 product varieties (formulas), and all temperature categories in the supermarket.

“ConAgra Foods has the ability to make an impact on sodium in a very broad way,” said Al Bolles, Ph.D., executive vice president, Research, Quality & Innovation, ConAgra Foods. “What that means is that we’ll need to use different techniques to keep or enhance the taste of all types of food in our portfolio, from Hunt’s tomatoes to Marie Callender’s convenient meals to Fleischmann’s table spreads. This is a definite challenge - but one that is very worthwhile and one we are confident that we can meet.”

ConAgra said it will track its work in sodium reduction and make it publicly available each year through the ConAgra Foods Corporate Social Responsibility report, published at