Attitudes towards MSG shift to positive as consumers look to reduce salt intake
Once maligned as a harmful additive, attitudes towards monosodium glutamate (MSG) are now shifting into the positive, according to a recent research report by Mintel.
Called Ingredient Watch: Debunking MSG from Mintel, the report finds that consumers now view MSG positively, despite historical misconceptions about MSG, which are rooted in xenophobia.
In addition to showing that 75% of the global social media conversation about MSG is positive between 2018-2023, the report posits that companies that strive to destigmatize the ingredient will be seen favourably by consumers – unlocking a powerful opportunity for food companies, the report said.
Despite MSG’s safety record validated by health organisations across the globe, the ingredient has been unfairly villainized for decades in the U.S. [and the U.K and Europe], stemming from poorly conducted science and xenophobic stigma, the report said.
However since 2018, the Ajinomoto Group has worked to set the record straight in the US, working with nutrition and culinary experts and the Asian Pacific Islander community to unravel years of stigma. The group is a global leader in the research, development, manufacture and sale of amino acid-based products for the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, sports nutrition, health and beauty industries, as well as food ingredients.
Mintel said the changing opinions of MSG come at an important time as a recent World Health Organization report shows the world will miss its 2025 sodium reduction target that sets out to reduce global sodium intake. This is because of the negative health outcomes linked to sodium overconsumption such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
MSG can be an integral tool for reducing sodium, as it provides flavour enhancement and umami anywhere manufacturers need it, from soups to baked goods, but with two thirds less sodium than table salt.
Dr Tia Rains, Vice President, Customer Engagement and Strategic Development at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition North America, said: “We are thrilled to see the consumer sentiment included in this report, as MSG is a valuable tool for creating foods that can meet sodium reduction needs, while still tasting delicious, which we know is the top driver of purchasing decisions.
“At Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition, we believe product developers should be operating with a full toolbox of safe ingredients at their disposal, and that includes MSG. Our team of experts in culinary, food science, and nutrition harness the power of amino acids, to help our customers create innovative, healthful and cost-efficient products with delicious taste and texture.”
The report’s author, Yunn Lim, is a Consumer Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel covering the Asia Pacific region, and holds a degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Reading.
She commented: “MSG was once found in packaged foods across the U.S., but perceptions of the ingredient changed in the 1960s after a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine deemed it a controversial flavour enhancer in the West.”
From her research, Lim said she found that people in APAC are more accepting of the ingredient, whereas MSG has a darker rooted maligned history in the West. The analyst used social listening data to highlight the difference in consumer perception across regions and how it changed over time.
“Combining social listening data with solid brand examples will provide inspiration for other brands to explore innovations around MSG too.”
As the “foremost experts in the science of amino acids”, Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition said it is ready to partner with food developers and manufacturers to bring healthful, delicious new products from ideation to table, including sodium reduction solutions using glutamates, taste and texture solutions for alternative proteins, authentic global cuisines, savoury snack products and more.
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