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Practical sodium reduction strategies for food industry professionals

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Practical sodium reduction strategies for food industry professionals

This blog is the third of the “1-2-Taste healthy food making” series which addresses personalised nutrition, clean label food and much more.
In this third article, we explore how you can reduce sodium effectively in food applications without sacrificing quality.

The pressing question: Should reducing sodium be a key focus in my food development?

Sodium, while essential, poses significant health risks when consumed in excess, notably increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Globally, dietary sodium intake consistently exceeds recommended levels, primarily due to its prevalent use in processed foods.

Recognising this issue, WHO recommended a 30% reduction in sodium consumption by 2025, a target now extended to 2030 due to slow progress. Many nations have launched salt-reduction initiatives, such as public awareness campaigns, reformulation efforts, and front-of-pack nutrition labelling.¹ To monitor these efforts, WHO is using a country-specific sodium scorecard, which is particularly interesting for food developers as it signals the likelihood of tighter policies in the near future that could impact their production.

Some manufacturers have adopted a “health by stealth” approach, making gradual, unnoticed reductions in salt content. However, this method risks compromising product safety and consumer satisfaction with significant salt reductions.

So, how can sodium be effectively reduced in food applications without sacrificing quality? Let’s explore some innovative strategies.

Strategies for salt reduction

Salt replacement

Ingredient substitution

One of the most effective strategies for sodium reduction is ingredient substitution. This method involves replacing sodium chloride with alternative salts that can replicate its functional properties while reducing overall sodium content.

Potassium salt is a versatile substitute for sodium chloride and can be used across various food categories, including bakery, meat, sauces, snacks, and beverages. It performs well in terms of proofing time, dough rheology, preservation, and curing in meats. However, its use is often limited by the bitter, metallic off-flavours that can develop at higher usage rates2. Typically, flavour modulators and bitter blockers are employed to counteract these off-flavours, but they can add significant cost and complexity to the ingredient list. In their salt replacing solutions, Nutek’s technology eliminates the need for these additional flavour modulators, reducing bitterness and enabling up to 50% sodium reductions. This process ensures that products maintain great taste with consumer-friendly labels.

Magnesium chloride enables sodium substitution rates of 30-50%, making it a viable option for applications such as cheese making, bakery, and the processing of meat and fish. Compared to sodium chloride and potassium chloride, magnesium chloride has a higher ionic strength, which enhances emulsion stability, macromolecular interactions, water holding capacity, and shelf-life. Nedmag’s Magnesium Chloride Crystals are specifically designed for these applications, providing a reliable means of reducing sodium while also enriching products with beneficial magnesium.

Flavour modulation

Umami plays a vital role in enhancing the perception of saltiness in food. While it doesn’t replace the functional properties of salt, using umami-enhancing ingredients can significantly improve flavour profiles in reduced-sodium products. Here are two solutions to help achieve sodium reduction goals:

Nutek’s NuSavor natural flavour solution delivers a strong umami taste, enhancing the perception of saltiness with up to 85% less sodium compared to standard salt. This solution, typically used at 0.5 – 1.0% of the formula weight, comes in a dry powder form, making it versatile for various production processes. For applications where the functional properties of salt are essential, combining NuSavor natural flavour with potassium salt-based solutions can be highly effective.

Yeast extracts also have the capacity to induce the umami taste. MCLS offers a range of clean label yeast extracts that are rich in peptides, amino acids, and nucleotides, effectively replicating the taste intensity of regular salt. This makes them ideal for providing a strong flavour profile in low-salt applications. Additionally, MCLS’ yeast extracts are highly concentrated, allowing for use in smaller quantities compared to standard yeast extracts. This not only provides a robust taste experience but can also be declared simply as “yeast extract” or “natural aroma,” aligning with the preferences of health-conscious consumers.

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Does sodium level matter to consumers?

Consumers are increasingly health-conscious and selective about the products they consume. However, when evaluating food, the amount of sodium typically ranks 7th in importance globally. Those with personal or family health diagnoses prioritise sodium content more highly, ranking it 5th and 6th respectively, compared to 9th and 7th among those without such diagnoses. Despite the widespread awareness that excessive sodium is detrimental to health, only 37% of consumers actively monitor their sodium intake, and just 34% look for low-sodium options.³ This discrepancy between knowledge and action underscores the need for food manufacturers to take initiative in reformulating their products and for regulatory intervention to prevent severe health issues in the society.

adding salt

Conclusion

Sodium reduction is a challenging but essential task for food developers. With the right ingredients and technical expertise, significant reductions are achievable without compromising product quality. At 1-2-Taste, we provide innovative solutions like potassium salt, magnesium chloride, umami-enhancing flavours, and yeast extracts to help you meet sodium reduction goals effectively.

Consumers are increasingly health-conscious and aware of the risks of high sodium intake, yet many do not actively monitor their sodium consumption. They do, however, favour brands that demonstrate a commitment to their health. This presents an opportunity for you to educate your consumers and position your brand as a health pioneer. By proactively reformulating your products and highlighting these improvements, you can build trust and loyalty, making a positive impact on public health and standing out in the market. Let 1-2-Taste support you in this journey towards creating healthier, reduced-sodium products.

References

1.  https://www.who.int/news/item/09-03-2023-massive-efforts-needed-to-reduce-salt-intake-and-protect-lives

2. Israr, T., Rakha, A., Sohail, M., Rashid, S., & Shehzad, A. (2016). Salt reduction in baked products: Strategies and constraints. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 51, 98–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.tifs.2016.03.002

3. Ajinomoto Global SALTS Survey Report.pdf