Posted on 24 April 2013.
Cost and the lack of a ‘silver bullet’ are still cited as an issue for reduced-sodium food, with savory products in general struggling with the challenge, but plenty of application-specific solutions abound, say industry players.
As part of FoodNavigator-USA’s special edition on sodium reduction, we talked to leading suppliers to gauge progress.
Patrick Stano, VP of Sales & Marketing, N. America for Dr. Paul Lohmann, explained: “Sodium chloride has some very unique properties and it seems that the biggest hurdle for formulators is the higher price for ingredients associated with sodium reduction when compared to the low cost NaCl they are used to using.”
Wayne Morley, PhD, Head of Food Innovation at Leatherhead Food Research, added that salt replacers are more expensive than salt, which limits usage. “This could be overcome if a salt replacement ingredient could be used at a lower level so that the cost in use was lower (as for sugar replacement ingredients).”
Sodium is a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) says that nine out of ten Americans consume too much sodium, and it estimates average intake at around 3,300 mg a day. Other research suggests the figure is even higher.
That’s quite a bit over the 2,300 mg of sodium per day recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (Intakes are even stricter for those with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease – for them, the level is 1,500 mg).
And with 80% of salt intake coming from processed foods, many countries have initiated salt reduction programs.
No magic bullet
Numerous ingredient suppliers offer sodium reduction solutions, but with so many different options available to formulators how can ingredient suppliers achieve success?
“By targeting specific applications and having good data to support the efficacy of your ingredient,” said Dr Morley.
“Different product types require different salt replacement ingredients and it is important to find the best matches. Application data from an independent source – like us here at Leatherhead! – is beneficial.
“A salt replacement ingredient that worked in many different product types would encourage usage,” he added.
Indeed, Tate & Lyle’s Soda-Lo is well-suited to topical applications such as potato chips, peanuts, and microwave popcorn, but it is not ideal for broths, drinks or cured meats, the company said recently.
Kraft Foods’ VP Research Development & Quality, Russ Moroz, recently told us that, while the company is on track to complete a three-year initiative to reduce sodium by an average of 10% across its North American portfolio, there is “not yet a silver bullet in the toolbox”.
German mineral specialists, Dr. Paul Lohmann, believes that utilizing mineral salts to replace sodium chloride, a mineral salt, is the best method to achieve sodium reduction.
“While other companies utilize task masking, texture, surface area, and other techniques to try to overcome bad tasting ingredients, Dr. Paul Lohmann utilizes our 125-plus years of experience with mineral salts to combine them in the best ratio to optimize the taste and performance,” said Stano.
The company launched LomaSalt “C lassic” onto the market in 2009, and now offers the ingredient in a number of versions, each developed for different applications and desired properties, said Stano.
“We also have the ability to customize products for our customer’s needs,” he added. “LomaSalt is a proprietary blend of mineral salts selected and combined to provide the taste and physical properties of table salt and a 50- 100% reduction in the sodium content.”
“At Dr. Paul Lohmann we have successfully utilized LomaSalt in a wide variety of applications, including lowsodium bread, pH sensitive applications like cheese products, etc.”
From the depths of the earth
Another recent entrance onto the market is Swedish salt processor Salinity with its Saltwell mineral salt extracted from underground brine reserves below the Atacama Desert in Chile, South America.
Saltwell is described by as a one-grain salt with 65% sodium chloride (NaCl) and 30% potassium chloride (KCl).
Thomas Hultman, Saltwell Export Manager, told us that the ingredient is very easy to use, and, since it’s a naturally reduced sodium salt, “it can replace regular salt by one-to-one ration with no expensive re-formulation of a recipe”.
“Saltwell works very well, especially in bread products where we discovered no significant difference from using regular salt when independent bakers tested the product,” he said.
“We have also seen that Saltwell maintains the same process exchange rate
(ability to bind with water) as regular salt in production, which is very important for the overall production economy.”
The product was launched into the US market earlier this year, and Salinity anticipates that food manufacturers will begin to incorporate Saltwell into ready-to-eat products based on the lifecycle of their products.
“One leading food producer in Europe already uses Saltwell in ready-to-eat products,” he said.
Kevin McDermott, Technical Sales Manager for Savoury Systems International, said: “I think savory products across the board are struggling with sodium reduction. Sodium is the ionic stimulant for salty flavor, therefore removing it elementally removes the specific gestational stimulant that our body desires.
“Consumers return to buy what tastes good, and in the past, the low sodium products have not tasted as good.
That is coupled with the pressure for manufacturers to maintain sales and compete in a market where regular consumer purchasing habits may slide toward products formulated for, or nutritionally beneficial for consumer indulgence alone.”
Savoury Systems focused on specialization of how its ingredients relate to the application, he said.
“In order for a replacing ingredient to have a minimal effect as a latter cost driver, the ingredient has to be utilized to the maximum of its capabilities as a flavor enhancer. In order to do that, we really focus on matching the best yeast extract product for a specific application.”
“The major hurdles are cost, product stability, and maintenance of as an equally desirable flavor. Our ingredients take on that third challenge. By using a whole protein based ingredient like a yeast extract, a final product can maintain a high level of savory flavor and mouth-feel, allowing a reduction in the amount of sodium added for flavor contribution.
“When matching up the best yeast extract with the final application, the usage level of the yeast can be low enough that cost detriment is inhibited in the final formulation,” added McDermott.
Another company exploring the potential of savory yeast extracts is Sensient Bio-Ingredients, which recently launched its Sensasalt product line of yeast extracts claiming sodium reductions up to 50%.
The Sensasalt product line utilizes proprietary technology and application expertise to create specific formulations for a wide range of savory products, including dips & dressings, soups, sauces and gravies, breads & doughs and salty snacks, said the company.
Beyond the ingredients
Other options are available to the food formulator to reduce sodium levels in their products, said Leatherhead’s Dr Morley.
“Contrast effects such as layering or the use of encapsulates are examples of product technology solutions to maintain saltiness perception with less salt.
“Double emulsions (water-in-oil-in-water) in which the salt is concentrated in the external water phase can achieve the same effect.
“Finally milder processing can reduce the damage to product quality and enhance the saltiness, for example Shaka retorts compared to static or rotary.”
Editor’s Note: This article provides a snap-shot of some sodium reduction ingredient solutions and is not intended as an exhaustive review of all the options.