Dan Barash Online


What Are You Doing About Salt?
June 8, 2009, 7:27 pm
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The way you’re handling the sodium issue is likely a mistake. By Blair Chancey

Not all members of the media are out to bully their sources into saying something sensational that they don’t really mean. When the voice on the other end of the phone doesn’t know the answer to a question, it’s often just as awkward for the journalist as it is for the interviewee. But when Bill Bangs, senior research fellow at Campbell’s Soup Co., found himself at a loss for words during a February interview with QSR, it wasn’t awkwardness but clarity that dominated the moment.

After a long sigh and an even longer pause, he finally said, “If I was starting today, knowing how far behind I was, I wouldn’t know where to start to be honest.” Essentially, he was tapping out, but his answer was crucial to a multiple-month-long investigation into the sodium content in quick-service menu items.

He’d been asked where a restaurant should start if it was interested in lowering its sodium content. His advice is important. He’s been at Campbell’s for 23 years and was part of the team that developed the company’s healthy soups line back in the 1980s—where the Campbell’s sodium-conscious program got its start. Today he is an integral part of the company’s industry-leading low-sodium initiative. He has seen the iconic soup company build its low-sodium program over the last three decades and would know better than anyone else how a brand could begin a similar line of menu innovations. The only problem was he didn’t. What he did know was that it was too late. It is increasingly clear that the brands that don’t take their menus’ high sodium counts seriously are going to be stung by consumer and, perhaps worse, government demands in the near future. When the top-10 quick-serves in the nation were queried as to why sodium content was so high in their menu items, excuses rather than thoughtful and honest responses were offered. PR speak, the stringing together of phrases like “culinary guardrails,” “corporate social responsibility,” and “holistic strategy” until verbs are optional and translation is mandatory, abounded. It is apparent that the industry needs a better game plan. To prepare the industry, QSR is playing devil’s advocate, challenging the most common arguments used to put off facing the sodium problem. It’s only a matter of time before the consumer media does the same. It’s up to you to be ready.

The way you’re handling the sodium issue is likely a mistake.

Not all members of the media are out to bully their sources into saying something sensational that they don’t really mean. When the voice on the other end of the phone doesn’t know the answer to a question, it’s often just as awkward for the journalist as it is for the interviewee. But when Bill Bangs, senior research fellow at Campbell’s Soup Co., found himself at a loss for words during a February interview with QSR, it wasn’t awkwardness but clarity that dominated the moment. After a long sigh and an even longer pause, he finally said, “If I was starting today, knowing how far behind I was, I wouldn’t know where to start to be honest.” Essentially, he was tapping out, but his answer was crucial to a multiple-month-long investigation into the sodium content in quick-service menu items.