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Sodium use up 144% in restaurants -- mostly through gourmet salt

September 3, 2011 |  9:00 am

Salt

So much for regulators' war on sodium – salt's presence on restaurant menus has boomed 144% in five years, according to new research.

But it's not just the regular stuff straight from the shaker, says Technomic MenuMonitor, which tracks more than 2,000 chains and restaurants. The actual amount of salt in food may have decreased, but more dishes are starting to feature fancier versions of the mineral.

"We are seeing more artisan, spice-blended and designer finishing salts being introduced broadly across appetizers, entrees and dessert menus," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.

In a trickle-down effect from fine dining, swanky salt is showing up across the food industry.

Small gourmet salt-selling boutiques, like The Meadow in New York City, are springing up around the country. "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto serves up his televised creations on slabs of pink rock salt. At chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry near Napa, recently deemed the most expensive restaurant in the country, the caramel ice cream comes with Maldon sea salt produced in England.

Asian stir-fry chain Genghis Grill mixes salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger and Cajun spices into a blend it calls Dragon Salt. Last year, Wendy's made a big to-do of its "Natural-Cut Sea Salt Fries." Hawaiian black lava sea salt has shown up on other menus.

Good luck, then, for efforts to ban salt, such as legislation last year out of New York that proposed a $1,000 fine for restaurants using sodium in food preparation or consumption.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: A bowl of rock salt. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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