Skip to main content

Action on Salt

Salt Targets 2017: Second Progress Report (September 2020)

In September 2020, Public Health England published ‘Salt Targets 2017: Second progress report’. This report used data from 2018 to monitor how well manufacturers, retailers and the out of home (OOH) industry have progressed in achieving the salt targets originally set for the end of 2017.   

The below compares the progress in 2017 to progress made in 2018.  

Average Targets  

For foods purchased for consumption in-home (retailers and manufacturers), just over half of average salt reduction targets have been met, which represents no change between 2017 and 2018, although retailers met more targets in 2018 compared with 2017.  

  • Manufacturer and Retailer combined: No change in the percentage of average targets met 
  • Manufacturer: 2 categories that met the average targets in 2017 no longer meet them in 2018 
  • Retailer: 4 categories that didn’t meet the average targets in 2017 now meet them in 2018  
  • OOH: Similar to the 2017 progress report, the 2018 report didn’t have enough data to examine the OOH sector 


Maximum Targets per 100g  

  • Manufacturer and Retailer combined: Overall, 83% of products met the maximum targets for their respective categories, compared to 80% in 2017.  
  • Manufacturer: The percentage of products that were at or below the maximum targets increased by 1% 
  • Retailers: The percentage of products that were at or below the maximum targets increased by 3% 
  • OOH: Access to data remains an issue in this sector, with only 21 of the 69 sub-categories with maximum targets per 100g having sufficient data available for analysis. As a result, the findings should be interpreted with caution as information is available on fewer products compared with retailers and manufacturers. The findings show a decrease in 13% for products at or below the maximum targets per 100g (74% in 2017 vs 61% in 2018). 
  • Manufacturer & Retailer vs OOH: More retailer and manufacturer products were at or below the maximum per 100g targets than OOH 


Maximum Targets per serve 

For the out of home sector, 74% of products were at or below their respective maximum per serve targets, compared to 70% in 2017. Some categories are making good progress e.g. 88% in takeaway pizza with cured meat toppings and seasoned chips, whilst others are lagging behind, e.g. only 35% of burgers with cured meat at or below the maximum per serve target.  


Main contributors of salt in the diet 

Retailer and Manufacturer 

Overall there has been no change in the number of categories that are the main contributors of salt in the diet meeting average salt targets. Bread and rolls, the key contributor of salt to the UK diet has now successfully achieved its average salt target, along with soups. Meanwhile, all pizzas and stocks no longer meet the targets when they previously did in 2017. For the remaining 7 key contributors of salt, little progress has been made. Bacon, the UK’s second biggest contributor of salt has remained unchanged despite reductions being clearly possible, as evidenced in our bacon survey published earlier in 2020.  

With regards to maximum targets per 100g, progress across the main contributors of salt has been slow, but present nevertheless.  The greatest improvements were seen in standard potato crisps, cook in pasta sauces and bread and rolls, and 100% of cheddar cheese products are now at or below the maximum target. Salted butters and spreads, and stocks however were the only two categories to have reduced the proportion of products at or below their respective maximum targets.  

Within the main contributors of salt, sausages and baked beans in tomato sauce without accompaniments are currently the worst performing categories with only 56% and 58% at or below the maximum targets, respectively.  


Main contributors of salt in diet 

Out of Home 

Similar to 2017, there was a lack of data preventing us from making any conclusions for the OOH sector. Out of the 6 comparable subcategories (data for both 2017 and 2018), all but 1 decreased in the percentage of products at or below the maximum targets.  


Total volume sales  

For the first time, PHE provided total volume sales and associated salt sales of each salt reduction category for retailers and manufacturers. Results showed that meat products, bread and ready meals make up 43% of volume sales for products that are part of the salt reduction programme, and account for 52% of the total salt sales. In 2018 9,000000 tonnes of products in the 28 salt reduction categories were sold – 80,000 tonnes of this was salt 


Business Level 

PHE also provided information on progress at the business level, looking at the top 15  sub-categories which contribute the most salt to the diet. This is a new section and therefore cannot be compared to 2017. Businesses were considered if they accounted for the top 80% of salt sales and have at least 1% of the sub-category's total salt sale, therefore is not a clear representation of the entire market. 


Retailer + Manufacturer Progress  

The business level data provided found 9 out of the 15 sub-categories have on average 80% or more products at or below the maximum target 

OOH Progress  

The top 10 OOH businesses, based on total salt sales of food products, were assessed against the maximum per 100g targets for all sectors, and the specific out of home targets per serving. Only 6 of these businesses provided data per 100g, however all provided data for per serving. 

Results found that of the targets for all sectors per 100g, for the 6 businesses that provided data, 1 only had 50% of products at or below the maximum target, 2 were around 70%, and the remaining 3 had around 80% of their products at or below the maximum targets. Of the targets per serving, 3 businesses had 100% of products at or below the targets, with another 2 close at 98% and 93%, with the remaining 5 between 59% and 87% of products at or below the maximum target 

The full report can be accessed on PHE’s website

Return to top