Campbell’s Removing 25% of Sodium from Soups

Canned and prepared soups are a sodium landmine many consumers have stepped into inadvertently over the years. But as more and more of us need to cut back on sodium intake, soup makers have been working overtime to find a solution.

The problem with canned soups is that they taste bland to begin with. Salt is added for two reasons – 1) it is a cheap preservative that lengthens the product shelf life and 2) it is a cheap way to enhance the product’s flavor.

Lower the salt content, and the soup tastes bad. No buyers. What’s a multi-billion corporation to do?

Campbell’s Soup company is now claiming it has maintained its good taste AND reduced the sodium level in it soups by 32% and more through smart formulation. Here’s a piece from a company press release last month:

In the wellness arena, Campbell’s iconic Tomato soup, which is enjoyed by 25 million Americans at least once a week, will feature the same great taste with a major sodium reduction of 32 percent to 480 mg per serving. Campbell will reposition “Healthy Request” soups in the heart health space by further reducing the sodium levels to 410 mg per serving and featuring the American Heart Association certification on a redesigned label. Both products will be available in September.

It’s interesting to learn how Campbell’s managed such a reduction in sodium without sacrificing taste.

According to the company, they are using a proprietary kind of sea salt with less sodium, as well as additional tinkering with the ingredients. Last time we took chemistry 101, salt is 40% sodium, 60% chloride. Additional minerals found in sea salt add up to less than 1%. So we’ll have to keep guessing for now what really changed.

For more information on the new soups and a taste verdict, there’s a good writeup by Jennifer LaRue Huget over at the Washington Post.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you can’t / won’t prepare soup at home, look for the low sodium products in the soup aisle. They should have less than 500mg of sodium per serving.

If the soup tastes bland, you can always shake some salt onto your serving at home.

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  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    Good question. One of my old professors worked on something like this, they found that they could use calcium to reduce salt content, but I don’t recall how. I’ll re-ask next time I run into her, and hopefully report back (2+ weeks).

  • Carol

    Morton makes a Lite Salt that I’ve been using for many years. It has half the sodium of table salt and is made with sodium chloride and potassium chloride, and actually has more potassium than sodium. Fine for baking, etc. It’s possible they are using something like this. Surprised more food companies and restaurants don’t.

    Speaking of mega-doses of sodium… PF Changs probably gets the prize. They have at least 3 soups with 6000 mg sodium per bowl (gag… that’s 2.5 x the daily limit/DRV for a 2000 calorie diet http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064928.htm):
    Here’s PF Chang’s nutrition info in pdf: http://www.pfchangs.com/pdfs/Nutritionals_July09.pdf

    To use the “low sodium” claim, a food product is limited to 140 mg sodium.

  • Jessica Roberts

    May I make an addendum to the suggestion you made if the soup tastes bland at home? Don’t add salt, necessarily, add some spice!!!! I rarely use salt (although I make my own soup) because I use so many different types of spices. Depending on the kind of soup (tomato could use some italian seasonings; basil, oregano, parsley) there are different types of spices that could enhance the taste. For a savory soup, herbs de provence might work. Even cinammon is great on butternut squash soup or pumpkin soup. Try it! Good luck!

  • http://www.fooducate.com/blog staff

    Excellent suggestions Jessica.
    Thanks!

  • Leah Perry

    Jess, I love that you commented on this. You always have intelligent, well thought out comments. I read this blog just last night whilest being bored out of my mind in class. haha.
    As you know, I recently got over my “fear” of making my own soup at home. Much to my surprise, it was amazing. I will never eat store bought soup again. And get this- my first attempt at soup-making had salt all the way at the bottom of the receipe written as “salt to taste and serve”! Wonderful. It didn’t need salt for all the other wonderful flavors swirling around in my mouth! Did you happen to try the receipe I sent you??

    Actually I went grocery shopping yesterday, as I always do on Fridays, and was checking out the labels on the backs of the cans or bags whichever. I was appalled at the sodium content in soup. Some had one serving size containing over 1000 mg. Yuck. I will never by store bought soup again–despite Campbell’s ploy to fraud consumers that their soups are now healthy for you. ;)

  • fred johnson

    I just ate a can of “beef country ladle” Campbell soup and it tasted like vegetables briefly boiled in water, bland thin disgusting, I could not give a damn about salt content, but there is definitely more to good soup than just sodium.

  • Bob Grosh

    Actually, Campbell now has gotten even more deceptive since the 25% less version was introduced two years ago.

    I was in Publics yesterday. My wife was looking at the soups she uses to cook a roast, cream oc celery, cream of mushroom, etc. She grabed a coulple of the new “Low Soduim” versions. They were priced 5 cents a can lower than the regular versions.

    Here is the catch.
    Regular can, 180 miligrams
    Low Soduim can 60 miligrams

    Big reduction, right?

    Not really, the Low sodium version is “pre-mixed, no need to add water.
    Regular soup requires you to add 2 cans of water.

    Sodium ammounts per serving size is not based on the finished soup. So, If you buy the regular soup and add two cans of water you would get the same 60 miligrams of soduim but it would cost you nearly 1/3rd the price of buying the low sodium version.
    What Campbell has done is fill a can 1/3rd full of condensed soup and 2/3rds water, diluting the sodium from 180mg to 60mg and reducing the price by less then 3%. In effect they are charging the consumer over 8 time the going price for bottled water.

  • Jay Cobb

    I hate any soups where they add crappy tasting potassium chloride to maintain its “saltiness” and that’s exactly what Campbells has done.