Salt has a bad rap, and for good reason.
Excessive amounts of sodium can do significant damage to one’s health, putting a person at risk for enlarged heart muscle, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure and kidney stones. The effect isn’t only broad; it’s deep. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to recommended levels. The average person ingests 3,400mg of sodium a day – 50% more than the 2,300mg limit recommended by the FDA.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that a Lancet study highlighted the need for changes to product formulations after one in five deaths were linked to poor diet.
Food formulators are listening. The Global Sodium Reduction Ingredients Market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11.71% during the forecast period (2020 - 2025). Unfortunately, they may not be eager to turn to common “go-to” salt alternatives, since each has issues related to flavor, healthfulness, clean labeling and profitability.
It’s difficult to replace sodium and still maintain the salty notes and flavors it imparts, particularly in formulations for condiments, cheesy soups and sauces, and other processed and prepared foods. Replacing sodium with another option, such as potassium chloride, can impart unappealing flavor notes, often described as bitter and metallic.
While salt certainly presents health issues, many of the options available to formulators aren’t much better for consumers. For example, people with certain medical conditions that impair urinary excretion of potassium (such as renal failure and diabetes) may need to limit or altogether avoid foods that contain potassium chloride.
Maintaining Clean Labels
Ingredients like potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate, potassium lactate and calcium chloride — all options for reducing salt in formulations — not only sound unfamiliar and therefore off-putting to consumers, but don’t align with clean label initiatives. Often masking ingredients are added to offset the flavors of these ingredients, adding more “problems” to the label.
Compared to some of its alternatives, salt is cheap and readily available. And it tastes great – after all, it’s the hero ingredient in an entire category called “salty snacks!” The options discussed above add more to the overall cost of the product (in the case of potassium chloride, the price is nearly twice that of salt), shrinking already narrow profit margins.
Sodium Replacement Innovations
Formulators are hard-pressed to mimic that unique umami flavor that sodium brings to a wide range of food, and the health concerns and clean label problems make options unpalatable in more ways than one. Recent innovations, though, address the full gamut of issues outlined here: flavor, healthfulness, profitability.
All-natural Grande Gusto® is a clean-label whey ingredient that not only allows manufacturers to reduce sodium, but improves nutrition and maintains the signature creamy texture and umami flavor consumers love, too. It allows food manufacturers to:
- Reduce the use of fresh, powdered and processed cheese
- Minimize storage and handling requirements
- Improve profits with a price-stable ingredient
- Use existing food production systems with ease
In one Mac & Cheese side-by-side comparison with Grande Gusto and a control, there was a marked reduction in sodium, fat and calories (3 of the top 4 ingredients consumers monitor for intake!) when 38% of the American cheese in the formulation was replaced with Gusto:
- 9% less sodium
- 17% reduction in fat
- 11% fewer calories
Ideal applications for Grande Gusto include cheese sauces, nacho cheese, Queso sauces, savory fillings, cheese soups and more.