Flowers' Charlie Moon talks sodium reduction

by Jeff Gelski
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Flowers Foods said a stealth approach to sodium reduction may be more appropriate for iconic brands like Wonder or Nature's Own.

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Consider cost and clean label intentions when deciding which ingredients to use for sodium reduction in bread and rolls, said Charlie Moon, vice-president of technical services and quality assurance and regulatory for Flowers Foods, Inc. Consider the consumers’ attachment to a brand or product when deciding whether to promote the reduction, he added during an Oct. 7 presentation at AACC International’s annual meeting in Providence.

A stealth approach might be more appropriate for iconic brands like Wonder or Nature’s Own, he said. Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., recently reduced sodium in a premium product but did not promote the reduction. Mr. Moon said the company did not want consumers thinking, “You changed my product!”

Flowers did promote sodium reduction in a 40-calorie product, though.

Mr. Moon said sodium in baked foods offers such benefits as strengthening and tightening the gluten in dough, controlling fermentation, enhancing flavor, improving crust color, and controlling water activity and microbial growth.

“There’s not one solution for all your products,” he said of sodium reduction.

The type of bread will affect the difficulty in reducing sodium.

“Some products will have a more complex flavor,” he said. “You can get to the reduced sodium level quicker than you can with plain white bread.”

Potassium chloride, even though it may have a metallic taste to overcome, remains a frequently used tool in reducing sodium, Mr. Moon said.

“It is probably the lowest cost alternative,” he said.

Single crystal potassium chloride, a recent innovation, may overcome the metallic flavor profile, offer a 1-to-1 replacement for salt and achieve a sodium reduction of 30% to 50%, depending on the formula, Mr. Moon said.

If a clean label or a simple ingredient list is a priority, sea salts might make the label more consumer-friendly than potassium chloride would, he said.

“Sea salts are some of the more trendy type things depending on where the sea salt comes from,” he said and added some sea salts have “really low levels” of sodium, much lower than the levels in regular salt.

Other potential ingredients he mentioned included vinegar, sour cultures, flavors and yeast extracts.

Mr. Moon said not to underestimate the effects of the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, not only for sodium but for other product attributes as well. He said he recognized the guidelines are voluntary, but retailers might want food companies to follow them.

Mr. Moon pointed to Europe.

“They had guidelines, too,” he said.

Then the big retailers insisted its customers/food companies follow the guidelines.

“It went from voluntary to mandatory pretty quick,” Mr. Moon said. “The same thing could happen here once the guidelines are released.”
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