Reducing salt levels in meat products probably would be easier if formulators did not have to worry about rising ingredient costs.

“Salt is very abundant and very easy to come by,” said Jim Lamkey, senior principal scientist for the technical services group of Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, but he added many replacement ingredients are reasonable in price.

“They’re not extravagantly more expensive, but they are going to be higher in cost than what salt is,” he said.

Taking cost into account, ingredient suppliers are offering ways to save on the use of flavor-enhancing and flavor-masking ingredients.

Camlow P, an ingredient based on white button mushrooms grown in Europe, may enhance flavors of ingredients like oregano, thyme and paprika, said Mike Kagan, technical specialist for Cambrian, Oakville, Ont.

“Any spice that generally would be playing in the background,” he said. “Camlow P rounds the flavor out.”

Cost-savings may be achieved since not as large an amount of flavor-enhancing ingredients is needed, he said. In deli meat, such as air-dried pepperoni, the inclusion of Camlow P at 0.15% may lead to a sodium reduction of 25%. Camlow P also may bring out flavor in such products as rosemary oven-roasted turkey or Tuscany sun-dried tomato turkey, Mr. Kagan said.

Camlow P adds umami taste and may be labeled as natural flavor. For simple label benefits, it may replace such ingredients as autolyzed yeast extract, I+G and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Cost in use for Camlow P is similar to cost in use for MSG, Mr. Kagan said. MSG may cost $1.10 to $1.15 a lb. When used at a 6% dose, cost in use comes out to 3c to 4c a lb of product, he said. Camlow P may cost $14 to $18 a lb. When used at a 0.2% dose, cost in use comes out to about 3c per lb of product.

DSM, Heerlen, The Netherlands, offers Multirome LS, which is more concentrated than traditional yeast extract-based flavors and therefore may be used in lower doses, according to the company.

“As Multirome LS is not a direct salt replacer, it is difficult to compare its cost in use with that of salt,” DSM said. “As a taste ingredient, it can help to significantly reduce sodium in a range of savory products. It also boosts the intensity of meat flavors and adds a lingering effect to enhance existing tastes.”

Nu-Tek Salt Advanced Formula Potassium Chloride may eliminate the cost of flavor enhancers completely. Traditionally companies have used potassium chloride and flavor-masking agents to replace sodium chloride in meat products, said Don Mower, president and chief operating officer of Nu-Tek Food Science, L.L.C., Minnetonka, Minn.

“The resulting sodium reduction is typically low, and the addition of expensive flavor maskers doesn’t make it cost-effective,” he said.

The patented technology of Nu-Tek Salt Advanced Formula Potassium Chloride minimizes the bitter taste and metallic notes generally found in traditional potassium chloride-based products, he said.

“The familiar flavor of processed meats isn’t affected,” Mr. Mower said. “There is minimal impact on formulation and (it eliminates) the need for costly flavor maskers. Additionally, since Nu-Tek Salt Advanced Formula Potassium Chloride can be used across a broad range of processed meats, it considerably minimizes R.&D. time and resources.”

Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, a business of Omaha-based ConAgra Foods, Inc., takes a three-prong approach to removing sodium in meat products, Dr. Lamkey said.

For the first prong, the objective is to replace the functional component of salt. Potassium chloride supplies similar functionality to sodium chloride when it comes to moisture retention and texture, but potassium chloride also may bring a bitter taste, Dr. Lamkey said. The second prong is to mask any bitterness that arises from the addition of potassium. Flavors that have a sweet component to them often are added to mask that bitterness.

For the third prong, Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings will build back the flavor that was lost when sodium was reduced, he said. The added flavors will enhance existing flavors in pork, beef or poultry and create a well-rounded eating experience.

Replacing 10% to 15% of sodium in a meat product may require only a few alterations, Dr. Lamkey said. If a product has a complex flavor, such as a heat flavor in Buffalo-style chicken, consumers may not notice small changes in sodium, he said. They are more likely to notice small changes in products that do not have a complex flavor such as turkey deli breast.

Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, N.J., offers Curavis So-Lo 93, a phosphate blend containing a mix of potassium and sodium pyrophosphate that has been shown to achieve good functionality and appearance in reduced sodium processed meat and poultry applications. Curavis So-Lo has 93% less sodium than standard sodium phosphates, along with binding qualities and solubility.

Sodium reduction in meat product accompaniments also is possible. San Francisco-based Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc. made that evident at its booth during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago in July.

Kikkoman natural flavor enhancer-PY was used in the bread of an Italian beef sandwich with au jus to amplify umami and reduce salt by up to 30%. Kikkoman dehydrated less sodium PTN soy sauce, which contains 45% less sodium than regular soy sauce, was featured in the dry rub on the beef.

Breadings on meat products are another opportunity for sodium reduction. Using Soda-Lo salt microspheres from London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. may reduce the sodium in breadings by 40%.

Sodium reduction in general may remain an industry hot topic for a few years. The global sodium reduction ingredients market is expected to reach $1,006.6 million by 2018 through a compound annual growth rate of 11%, according to Dallas-based MarketsandMarkets.

A listing of sodium levels and goals 

Many people in the food industry, government agencies and the medical field may agree that reducing sodium in products may lead to beneficial health results for consumers. Goals for reduced sodium consumption vary. Here are a few:

•The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends people reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg. A further reduction to 1,500 mg of sodium per day should be sought by people age 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

•The Federal Register of Jan. 26, 2012, gave nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. In 10 years a sodium reduction of 25% to 50% from baseline is sought in breakfasts and lunches. By July 1, 2014, schools are expected to modify menus and recipes to reduce the sodium content of school lunches by about 5% to 10% from their baseline.

•The Institute of Medicine on May 14, 2013, said the average American adult consumes 3,400 mg or more of sodium per day. Evidence from studies does not support reducing sodium intake to below 2,300 mg per day, the I.O.M. said.

•The Federal Register of June 28, 2013, listed regulations to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, other than food sold under the lunch and breakfast programs. Sodium content in snacks was limited to 230 mg per item as packaged or served. On July 1, 2016, the sodium standard will move to 200 mg per item as packaged or served.

Consider shelf life when reducing salt

Salt does more than season bratwursts, deli meats, hamburgers and turkey slices. The salting of meat was the most common method of preserving meat products before the advent of industrial refrigeration, according to the Washington-based American Meat Institute.

Meat processors may use salt as an ingredient with other food safety interventions to control the water available in products, which may prevent microbial growth, according to the A.M.I. Thus, meat processors that reduce salt levels in their products should consider any potential food safety/preservation problems.

With that thought in mind, Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland, developed sub4salt cure to substitute completely for regular curing salt. The ingredient may reduce sodium content by up to 35%.

Curing salt is a blend of sodium chloride and sodium nitrite or nitrate, according to Jungbunzlauer. It has functionalities in color, preservation, texture and taste of processed meat products.

Curing salt lowers water activity in the product. Decreasing available water inhibits microbial development. Nitrate and nitrite also accomplish a color-fixing effect, which is a reddening effect that keeps meat products from taking on an unappealing gray color.

To create sub4salt cure, Jungbunzlauer used its sub4salt ingredient, a salt replacer it launched in 2007, and added sodium nitrite. Sub4salt cure works in all cured meat products, including bologna-type sausage, ham and salami.

“During the production process nitrate will react to nitrite,” Jungbunzlauer said. “To skip this reaction we chose sodium nitrite. Another reason is that curing salt with sodium nitrite is more common than with sodium nitrate.”

For another shelf life extender, Corbion Purac, Diemen, The Netherlands, offers Purasal HiPure P Plus potassium lactate, which helps maintain product taste and flavor as well.

“Neither potassium lactate nor potassium chloride can completely replace sodium chloride, but in many formulations, the lactate is the better alternative,” said David Meggs, vice-president, meat and culinary, North America, for Corbion Purac. “This is due to its bland taste profile — ideal for more delicately flavored products. Potassium lactate doesn’t display the bigger notes that are often evident in potassium chloride. And yes, potassium lactate can be used instead of potassium chloride.”