Boston Market's Salt Shaker Change: Health Initiative or Marketing Ploy?

It's a good idea but don't be confused with that meaning their food is all low in sodium.

I commend for taking a voluntary step to improve the health of their customers — although I do believe that it is primarily a marketing stunt.

If someone tastes the food and feels they still want more salt Boston Market is still making salt shakers available, they say they’re just trying to get people to think about what is an unhealthy habit for many. It's a good idea but don't be confused with that meaning their food is all low in sodium.

Hypertension and heart disease are silent killers and excess sodium is a contributing factor to both. In many people excess sodium can also contribute to other health problems.

Getting people to think about unhealthy habits is a good thing.

Given what we all pay for health insurance and in taxes for Medicare and Medicaid and to reimburse hospitals for the uninsured who end up in the Emergency rooms with strokes and hypertensive attacks, this method of drawing attention to the excess salt in the American diet is a no-lose for all of us. 

I would however not jump to the conclusion that Boston Market is a low sodium restaurant. The marketing professional in me believes that this is exactly what they want us to think — however it is far from the truth.

The maximum recommended amount of sodium for adults and children over four years of age is 2,400 mg per day based on a 2000 calorie diet.  Boston Market’s website lists a regular size serving of meatloaf as containing 1090 mg of sodium, the included piece of corn bread is an additional 330 mg and a side of mashed potatoes with beef gravy is 890 on top of that. Round the meal off with a vegetable such as garlicky lemon spinach for another 380 mg and you’ve passed your limit for the day in one meal.

And please don’t think I’m picking on meatloaf. The first item listed on their online nutrition menu is the half rotisserie chicken with 1380 mg of sodium which is nearly a third more than the meatloaf. 

In fairness, if you try, you can find some reasonable lower sodium items on their menu. They in fact do offer some better options than other establishments.

I welcome any attempt to educate the public and to change unhealthy behaviors but we all need to pay attention to what we are actually eating; not what the restaurants and food manufacturers want us to THINK we’re eating.

From a marketing perspective this is a brilliant move.

Regardless of their true intentions, which only they know, they have garnered millions of dollars worth of free press for something that may even save them money. 

Kudos to the marketing team.

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Brenda Crawshaw August 23, 2012 at 12:09 AM
That's the FIRST thing I thought, too, when I saw the announcement. If they were serious about reducing sodium they would source alternatives to their highly processed, preservative laden premade ingredients like chicken flavor base, seasoning blends and baking mixes. It's EXPENSIVE to do that whereas removing salt, one of the cheapest ingredients a store can purchase, costs them nothing. Instead of being lauded they should be chastised.
Cheryl Tully Stoll August 23, 2012 at 12:31 AM
But Brenda, it was marketing genius! Doing NOTHING and getting tens of millions of dollars in free positive press resulting in hordes of American's believing they are a healthy restaurant. It's almost as good as the Democratic Party convincing Todd Akin he should stay in the Missouri Senate race. lol
Donald Wendt August 23, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Great article Cheryl. This is one reason I try so hard to stay away from the fastfood temptation. I have read that MSG is a large portion of the sodium intake in these establishments and that MSG blocks the neuro receptors that tell us we are full... is that why I can eat 2 big macs and an extra large fry? Also, MSG (I have read) can be addicting! I have nothing to back this up, other than some random website I researched some time ago, but it is something to ponder.


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