The Brakes have been slammed on the development of new products making health claims about salt, a year after the industry pledged to slash salt levels as part of the Responsibility Deal.

The number of new and reformulated food products making ‘no, low or reduced salt’ claims fell 12% over the past year to 192, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database [July 2011 - June 2012].

Before the Department of Health’s Deal was signed in March last year, NPD had been on the increase. In the year to June 2011, the number of new products making claims about salt shot up by almost a third.

The Food & Drink Federation said the slowdown reflected how difficult it was becoming to make further reductions to salt content.

To make a ‘reduced salt’ claim, manufacturers have to cut salt levels by 30%, which the FDF said was hard to do if the salt content had already been reduced. “It will be increasingly difficult to produce similar products with such a large difference in salt content,” said FDF director of food safety and science Barbara Gallani.

This sentiment was expressed by suppliers in a government report published last month that revealed many, including United Biscuits and Kraft, were falling behind pledged reductions. UB said it expected to reach 25% of its 2012 salt targets, blaming “significant technical challenges” associated with cutting salt further without compromising taste.

Kevin Stone, MD of Hampstead Farm, which makes sauces with no added salt, said suppliers had become reticent to reduce salt levels, especially having seen reformulations result in lower sales. “Producers have got cold feet about lowering salt content,” he said.

The FDF added that suppliers may also have been put off making claims about salt because of regulatory uncertainty.