Innovations in Salt Reduction

June 6, 2012

Recent innovations in salt reduction.

Salt reduction is still a hot topic in national and global nutrition. Policymakers are calling for less salt in the nation’s food supply, and so are NGOs. Even big-name manufacturers, from Kraft Foods to Goya Foods, have made their own cuts.

One benefit of salt reduction could be better heart health overall. (Science has linked sodium consumption to higher blood pressure and stroke risk, but a cause-and-effect association remains debated.)

Depending on the ingredient used in place of salt or sodium, there could be other benefits, too. Let’s look at some of the more notable innovations in salt reduction from recent months and what they can do for your products.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is often hailed as a tool for sodium reduction. But the perception that sea salt is a healthier alternative to table salt isn’t entirely accurate.

Compared to table salt, sea salt is minimally processed, allowing it to retain trace minerals found naturally in seawater. But those minerals generally don’t reach significant levels. Realistically, then, sea salt is still 98 to 99% sodium chloride.

A few companies have taken to developing sea salt products that come with significant mineral content. At terminal seas, these companies evaporate seawater through solar processes that leave behind sea salt and mineral-rich brine for formulation needs.

Val Anderson, executive vice president of Mineral Resources International (Ogden, UT), which produces mineral concentrates from the Great Salt Lake, says sodium is only part of the nation’s sodium problem.

“We’re over-consuming sodium, but we’re also under-consuming potassium and magnesium,” says Anderson, “which are essential for sodium to function as an essential nutrient.”

While potassium contribution may not be sufficient to make content claims, significant magnesium increases are possible. ICL Performance Products (St. Louis) supplies Salona, a mineral-rich sea salt harvested from the Dead Sea in Israel. The company says that depending on the given application and use level, a “good source of magnesium” label claim is possible with Salona.

Many sensory studies performed to date have found that, with the right balance, boosting salt’s mineral composition can bring back the salty taste lost with salt reduction. That’s another motivation for these companies.

Dairy

Dairy is a big contributor of salt to the diet, but innovative salt reduction strategies for and with dairy are turning up often.

Proliant Inc.’s (Ankeny, IA) VersiLac whey permeate takes a less-salt-more-mineral approach. While what provides VersiLac’s salty enhancement is not entirely clear, Proliant and researchers at the U.S. Dairy Export Council believe that non-protein nitrogen compounds and mineral salts naturally present in whey permeate are enhancing saltiness and flavor.

For dairy-based products, VersiLac acts as a replacement for higher-priced alternatives like whey powder and nonfat dry milk.The ingredient further benefits from a unique drying process. Applications research specialist Kim Peterson says the drying process utilizes a bottom-up spray dry that results in a naturally
agglomerated product that doesn’t dust or clump.

In other dairy news, Arla Food Ingredients (Arhus, Denmark) recently launched Nutrilac functional milk proteins for reduced-salt processed cheeses. Because Nutrilac has emulsification properties, it can replace emulsifying salts normally used in cheese manufacture. Nutrilac can even enable lower natural cheese contents-a real cost saver, says Arla.

Tomato

Israel-based LycoRed Ltd. (Haifa, Israel) is a leading supplier of tomato-based lycopene, so it knows the fruit source very well-so well, in fact, that the company developed a flavor enhancer from it.

Tomatoes are known for containing high sources of glutamic acid, which imparts umami and kokumi flavor characteristics. By separating and concentrating the flavor components of tomato, LycoRed ended up with a flavor-packed ingredient called Sante, which the company says can round off and extend salty flavor in many applications.

LycoRed’s Sante can label as a “natural flavor,” “tomato concentrate,” or “tomato extract.” It is  now available in liquid and powder form and is stable even in extreme processing temperatures.