Salt is one of the most effective, cost-efficient and easily accessible ingredients used for food and beverage enhancement, from taste to texture.
While it contains sodium that the body needs to maintain fluid balance and to ensure muscles and nerves work properly, salt is easily a leading cause of illnesses and health problems when overconsumed through snacks and other processed foods.
With governments and companies taking concrete steps to regulate sodium levels in processed foods, the development of healthier low-sodium products is seen as vital in standing out in the competitive market, especially as more consumers globally are shifting to nutritious options. Even for OTG and ready-to-eat snacks, healthier alternatives are gaining popularity.
Across the Asia Pacific, declaration of sodium content is required on the packaging, with declaration of high-sodium content expected in the years ahead. In Europe, low-sodium products are increasingly made available, with more stringent legislations around the declaration of salt expected by 2024. The UK is implementing restrictions on HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) products whilst Hungary taxes products high in salt and sugar. In North and Latin America, efforts to make sure front packaging labelling is clearer are gaining wide support. Front of pack labelling is advancing in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where Nutri-Score is widely adopted.
Salt reduction results in multidimensional changes. “Not only is saltiness lowered, the sourness changes as well. The bitterness goes up, and umami goes unbalanced because salt is not a single sensation but an overall experience,” says Harsch Kosthi, marketing director for Taste Technologies for APAC, Middle East and Africa for Kerry. (Photo: Andi Berger | Dreamstime.com)
It helps consumers are also recognising the need to lower their salt intake. Alongside the global trend for a healthier lifestyle, which to a large extent was bolstered by the pandemic, global consumers are turning to nutritious food and drink products for their daily needs.
According to Harsch Kosthi, marketing director for Taste Technologies for APAC, Middle East and Africa for Kerry, salt is one of the top five ingredients that consumers are consciously trying to reduce in their diets.
“More people all over the world are looking at food as medicine as they put focus on their health more than ever. This has translated to increased demand and preference for healthy foods, including snacks – snacks that are good for me, good for my family and good for the earth,” Kosthi shared with participants of the ASEAN Food & Beverage Ingredients Summit 2022, an online webinar organised by Ringier Events on May 31.
But reducing salt in F&B products is not as straightforward as many might think because this step impacts not just taste, but other technical aspects in processing.
“Cutting the amount of salt in food affects not only the saltiness level but other key factors as well that impact the overall taste, quality and experience with the food,” Kosthi said.
Taste is compromised if salt is reduced because one, salt masks the bitterness of the base.
Food texture is also significantly affected with the reduction of salt because it contributes to seasoning homogeneity. In baking products, salt plays a key role in strengthening gluten structure that results in a dough that can hold its shape and can yield high quality bread.
Lowering the amount of salt in food can also risk food safety. “Historically, salt has been used to prevent food spoilage and preserve it. In hot, tropical countries such as those in Asia, this is very important. So many food items stay fresh for long because of salt.”
Any efforts to reduce salt must factor in taste, texture and food safety, he added. “Unless a balance of all these elements is achieved, salt reduction will not be possible.”
Salt reduction results in multidimensional changes, Koshti said. “Not only is saltiness lowered, the sourness changes as well. The bitterness goes up and umami goes unbalanced because salt is not a single sensation but an overall experience.”
Outside of these factors, cost can be an issue. “Salt is a very low-cost ingredient so any measures to reduce it would mean an expense. After all, there is probably no ingredient cheaper than salt. But what we need to look at is the value that the solution brings to the table. The value of health, the value of positive nutrition. Whilst there might be an increase in cost, the overall value is also much higher,” Kosthi said.
Addressing the sodium challenge
Kerry Group, a global leader in taste, nutrition and clean label products, works with companies and brands in meeting their goal of cutting sodium in food without downgrading the eating experience.
The Tastesense Salt modulation solution reduces sodium levels in food whilst still delivering on the salt and umami profiles. It can lower sodium content by as much as 50% depending on the target application. It improves the taste perception for a richer overall eating experience with a clean aftertaste.
Because it is not based on potassium chloride (KCl), Tastesense Salt yields a natural, clean taste. It enables companies to declare natural flavouring or yeast extract in their packaging.
Flexible across different food types and applications, from prepared meals, soups, sauces and snacks to bakery and savoury products, vegetarian and even frozen uses, Tastesense Salt also takes care of the upfront and middle saltiness at the same time covers the bitter aftertaste.
Holistic toolbox approach
With taste as king, Kerry knows its Tastesense Salt must be able to balance sodium reduction and good eating experience. “Lowering sodium content, for example, by 15 percent to 30 percent could result in the profile completely dropping, the bitterness level rising, and sourness and mouthfeel going down. Kerry’s Tastesense builds back the saltiness and mouthfeel, and the declaration can still be natural flavour or yeast extract,” Kosthi said.
If sodium reduction of a higher percentage leads to upfront saltiness, KCl bitterness and lower mouthfeel, masking solutions can be used to resolve the bitterness whilst Tastesense Salt can address the saltiness and mouthfeel concerns.
For snacks, Kerry’s portfolio of technology ingredients can also tackle the core challenges related to sodium reduction, namely seasoning homogeneity, activation of the sodium ion channel, tanginess, saltiness, enhancement of the middle taste, succulence and bitterness masking of the sodium alternatives. “The Tastesense Salt modulation technology can be complemented by natural extracts, dairy flavours and ingredients, and savoury flavours. We can leverage our processing technologies, including fermentation, pyrolysis, reaction and cooking method. We also have the application expertise in terms of ingredient use and recipe modulation. All of these combined can resolve the challenges.”
Kerry’s application and sensory team in Singapore can also assist companies in selecting the ideal application and combination of technologies to meet their demands.
“One of our sodium reduction projects required a significant decrease in the sodium levels. This alone was a huge challenge, and this was compounded by off notes from the base that we noted when we started cutting down the sodium level. With our Tastesense portfolio, we masked the bitterness of the off notes. Then we naturally enhanced the taste component to achieve the salivation and the umami characters,” Kosthi added.
Kerry’s Tastesense Salt can also be used in beverage applications. “If the objective is to lower the sodium content, you can use the same technology. The fundamentals are the same.”
Beyond balancing sodium reduction and taste considerations, Tastesense Salt has been designed for easy application, delivers cost-in-use efficiency, as well as enables manufacturers to achieve their clean label objectives.
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