Contribution of major food companies and their products to household dietary sodium purchases in Australia
Background: The Australian federal government will soon release voluntary sodium reduction targets for 30 packaged food categories through the Healthy Food Partnership. Previous assessments of voluntary targets show variable industry engagement, and little is known about the extent that major food companies and their products contribute to dietary sodium purchases among Australian households. Methods: The aim of this cross-sectional study was to identify the relative contribution that food
... tion that food companies and their products made to Australian household sodium purchases in 2018, and to examine differences in sodium purchases by household income level. We used one year of grocery purchase data from a nationally representative consumer panel of Australian households who reported their grocery purchases (the Nielsen Homescan panel), combined with database that contains product-specific sodium content for packaged foods and beverages (FoodSwitch). The top food companies and food categories were ranked according to their contribution to household sodium purchases. Differences in per capita sodium purchases by income levels were assessed by 1-factor ANOVA. All analyses were modelled to the Australian population in 2018 using sample weights. Results: Sodium data were available from 7,188 households who purchased 26,728 unique products and purchased just under 7.5 million food product units. Out of 1,329 food companies, the top 10 accounted for 35% of unique products and contributed to 58% of all sodium purchased from packaged foods and beverages. The top three companies were grocery food retailers each contributing 12-15% of sodium purchases from sales of their private label products, particularly processed meat, cheese and bread. Out of the 67 food categories, the top 10 accounted for 73% of sodium purchased, particularly driven by purchases of processed meat (14%), bread (12%) and sauces (11%). Low-income Australian households purchased significantly more sodium from packaged products than high-income households per capita (452mg/d, 95%CI: 363-540mg/d, P<0.001). Conclusions: A small number of food companies and food categories account for most of the dietary sodium purchased by Australian households. Prioritizing government engagement with these groups could deliver a large reduction in population sodium intake.