Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients
Marketing Insights: Giving ourselves a shake


Canadians are definitely feeling some pressure and not just the kind that comes from psychological stress. We are ingesting more salt than practically any other country in the world and paying a steep price in return. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) affects one in five Canadians. Hypertension is the number one risk factor for having a stroke and a major contributor to heart disease. Studies suggest that 42 per cent of Canadians with high blood pressure may not even know that they have it because there are no symptoms. Hypertension has been dubbed “the silent killer”, making it especially lethal. Several pieces of recent research have sounded some pretty significant alarm bells regarding Canada’s food supply and its love affair with the salt shaker.

Canadians are definitely feeling some pressure and not just the kind
that comes from psychological stress. We are ingesting more salt than
practically any other country in the world and paying a steep price in
return. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, high
blood pressure (also known as hypertension) affects one in five
Canadians. Hypertension is the number one risk factor for having a
stroke and a major contributor to heart disease. Studies suggest that
42 per cent of Canadians with high blood pressure may not even know
that they have it because there are no symptoms. Hypertension has been
dubbed “the silent killer”, making it especially lethal. Several pieces
of recent research have sounded some pretty significant alarm bells
regarding Canada’s food supply and its love affair with the salt shaker.

The chemical name for salt is sodium chloride. Scientists are only now
beginning to understand how salt causes high blood pressure. NOS is the
enzyme that produces nitric oxide (NO), a molecule used by the cells
lining blood vessels (endothelial cells) to signal surrounding muscle
to relax and thereby improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
A joint study by the U.S., and China points to the possibility that sodium chloride inhibits the action of
the NOS, which in turn won’t allow blood vessels to relax and in turn
increases blood pressure. Now that scientists can actually link salt
intake to hypertension, it makes monitoring this additive even more
important. For Canadians it’s especially crucial. We happen to be one
of the saltiest countries in the world.

The World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) is an international
health-advocacy group. Members of WASH include prominent experts who
specialize in hypertension. WASH looked at nutritional information from
food manufacturer’s websites, zeroing in on fast-food and processed
foods from various countries around the world. WASH discovered that in
every product studied the amount of salt differs from country to
country even for the same products. It was noted that for many foods,
sodium levels are highest in Canada and lowest in Britain. This is
largely due to the fact that Britain embarked upon a major initiative
to reduce salt consumption. This difference extends even to breakfast
cereals thought to be healthy for us. The study found that one bowl
(100g) of All-Bran sold in this country contains 861mg of sodium. This
level represents more than one-third of the daily recommended intake
for people aged nine to 50. By contrast, All-Bran in the U.S., has just
258mg of sodium per 100g. Statistics Canada reports that on average, a
Canadian consumes nearly 3,100mg of sodium a day. This level is more
than double the daily recommended amount for adults and considered
quite beyond acceptable. It’s not just about what Canadians are adding
to their food as seasoning. The studies indicate that almost 80 per
cent of the sodium intake of Canadians is ingested passively from
packaged or processed food. Herein, exists the opportunity for pizza
food service.

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 It would be very straightforward to create a low sodium pizza to add
to your menu. Work with your distributor to select a tomato sauce with
a moderate or low sodium level and then avoid toppings that tip the
sodium scale such as anchovies, cured meats (pepperoni, bacon) and
salty cheeses. Chicken pizzas adorned with a sprinkling of fresh
mozzarella and sliced veggies would be a great option to offer as
containing a more reasonable sodium level. Fresh herbs and flavoured
oils will add all the zest that’s needed. A low sodium barbeque sauce
could be made using a low sodium tomato sauce as a base. Frozen food
manufacturers are launching healthier frozen pizzas which include
thinner crusts and more upscale ingredients but foodservice’s greatest
asset is its “made on premise” flexibility and freshness. You can react
to this trend faster than big companies who must embark upon months of research and
development before launching new initiatives. Make no mistake – salt is
about to become a big focus for health officials. When food
manufacturers were asked why the same product sold in other countries
has so much less salt than the Canadian version, they claimed that
regional taste differences dictated more salt be added to the Canadian
product. Of course, if you give people more salt then they will become
accustomed to that taste profile and in turn seek it out, so it’s
really a case of the perpetrator blaming the victim.

The federal government has created a working group to examine the
problem of Canadian sodium intake and to propose solutions. Those
solutions have not been revealed yet but they will likely involve some
intensive education and regulation on the dangers of added salt. Get
ahead of the curve and introduce one or two low sodium products to your
menu and promote them as such. Your customers will thank you with all
of their hearts.


Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the
food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She
specializes in retail brand strategies.