July 26 2011

How Dare Companies Try to Make Money!

Julie Gunlock

Professional food nanny Marion Nestle is hand-wringing again. On her food blog for The Atlantic, Nestle bemoans the decision made by Campbell's Soup Company to increase the salt content in its soups, after sales slumped when salt was reduced. For Nestle, this is a reason to worry. She says, "As I endlessly repeat, even companies that want to make ‘healthier' products cannot do it - unless the products sell. If they don't, forget it." Well, yes, Ms. Nestle, that's true. Let me just give you an economics lesson even Contessa Brewer would be proud of: Companies must sell products to stay in business. If they don't, they go belly up and can no longer sell said products.

Get it, Ms. Nestle? While the Econ 101-challenged Nestle might have trouble with these basic business concepts, regular people get it. They buy products that taste good. Ostensibly due to pressure from nutty food nannies like Nestle, Campbell's reduced the salt content in its soups. Customers responded with their wallets, choosing to purchase soups from companies that maintained salt content. Campbell's is reacting to the market and upping the salt in its soups in order to sell more product.

Nestle's concern about Campbell's soup made me wonder if she'd even seen the new Scientific American article citing the new study that found no evidence that limiting salt reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases in people with normal or high blood pressure. This was big food news a few weeks ago. Surely Ms. Nestle - a professor of nutrition - saw this latest good news story on salt. When I did some basic Internet searching, not only did I find that she's read the article; she'd been asked to comment on it by an editor at Scientific American. In her Q-and-A with Scientific American, she seems genuinely baffled by the latest findings but she's sure on one point - the science has not made a conclusive decision on just how salt impacts the body. Hey, Ms. Nestle, here's one more economic lesson: Maybe businesses (and government regulators) should wait until the science does make a decision on salt.

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