Salt substitutes. A second approach product development teams can use to reduce sodium in their product is to use a potassium-based salt instead of a sodium-based salt. Potassium chloride has been successfully used in many food applications to reduce the amount of sodium. Potassium chloride delivers a similar salty perception and functionality when compared to sodium chloride. Unfortunately, potassium chloride cannot typically be used as a 1:1 replacement for sodium chloride as it often comes across as bitter or metallic to consumers. In order to successfully use potassium chloride in a sodium reduction project, product development teams will need to determine the level of potassium chloride that can be used to replace sodium chloride in their formulations to achieve both a sodium reduction and an acceptable flavor.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2017
The bitter taste of potassium chloride has been an issue the food industry is working to address; there are several technologies on the market that can be added to formulas that will mask the bitter taste of potassium chloride and enable a manufacturer to replace more sodium chloride with potassium chloride.
Salt enhancers. Instead of replacing salt with a non-sodium salt, ingredients that are known to enhance a salty perception are an option when looking to reduce sodium in a formula. Salt enhancers typically deliver an umami taste sensation that is known to enhance the overall flavor and fullness of a product. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The Umami taste can be described as meaty or brothy and is perceived as the savory characteristic in food. Umami’s savory taste is attributed to the presence of glutamates and nucleotides in a food. Ingredients such as monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate are all food additives that have been traditionally used to bring out this umami flavor in foods. These ingredients contain less sodium than salt and are typically used in smaller quantities, which make them a good alternative to salt. Yeast extracts and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins also contain glutamates and can be used to enhance the salty characteristic of a product. Note that sodium is usually found in these ingredients as well, so product development teams must make note of how much they can add the enhancers to achieve the sodium reduction they are targeting.
As the industry continues to focus on clean labels, ingredients such as monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, yeast extracts, and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins may not be as desirable. If this is the case, there are several other options on the market that naturally contain glutamates and nucleotides, like mushrooms, soy sauce, miso, hard cheeses, tomatoes, seaweed, and more. Umami blends are also available from several manufacturers, which have been developed to assist with natural sodium reduction and flavor enhancement applications.
Replacing salt with natural ingredients. In years past, one of the major focuses of the food industry was to provide consumers with a product that had a good value. In order to do this, manufacturers turned to lower-cost ingredients such as salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats to deliver desirable flavors consumers prefer. Unfortunately, the natural flavors of products often suffered during this time of value focus. As the negative effects of salt, sugar, and fat in the diet are being learned, the food industry may find itself shifting focus from value to flavor. Consumers will always want food that tastes good—it will be up to the food industry to identify ways to satisfy that need with healthy alternatives.
One approach to adding flavor back when reducing ingredients such as salt is to simply increase the use of natural flavors, like spices, garlic, onion, citrus juices, vinegars, and vegetables. These ingredients don’t necessarily enhance the salty perception of a food, but they add flavor and provide consumers with an alternative enjoyable experience.