When going to lower-sodium systems of chemical leavening, formulators must be sure to balance cost with functionality. Good options are available, said Bill McKeown, vice-president, innovation, AB Mauri North America, Chesterfield, MO, in this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A.

Baking & Snack: Are low-sodium chemical leavening systems catching on? If so, how is AB Mauri poised to capitalize on the opportunity?

Bill McKeown: We are seeing continued interest in our low-sodium chemical leavening systems. Customers have been pleased with AB Mauri products and are slowly but surely moving some of their production lines to lower-sodium offerings for consumers. Unfortunately, sodium alternatives are typically more expensive, and this higher cost continues to be a key driver for many customers and consumers alike.

How has the advent of calcium- and potassium-bearing ingredients changed the chemical leavening systems of today?

An effort to move away from sodium bicarbonate and into potassium bicarbonate-based leaveners has been a challenge for bakers and consumers due to the distinct and undesirable taste of potassium. As a result, there has been movement to use calcium phosphates instead of sodium-based phosphates as leavening acids and to keep some or all of the sodium bicarbonate in the leaving system.

How have the chemical leavening agents you supply for bakery use changed over the past few years?

We continue to produce leavening systems with traditional components and have expanded the line to include the low-sodium and no-sodium leavening solutions desired by many customers.

When do low-sodium approaches make sense, and when is it better to opt for the tried-and-true conventional products?

This is all about the requirements of the end user. Today, our new product development efforts initially start with clean-label ingredients. The decision to move to low-sodium components or cleaner label ingredients is determined by our customers and, ultimately, the end consumer. For a bakery that is mainly focused on meeting a specific nutritional requirement such as low-sodium tortillas, a lower-sodium leavening system may make sense; however, the cost must be weighed against alternative sodium reductions, such as pulling back on the added salt to a formula.

How do AB Mauri leavening ingredients add to potassium content, a “nutrient of interest” under new government guidelines?

The US Food and Drug Administration is proposing to increase the daily value (DV) for potassium from 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg, while reducing the DV for sodium from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg. Chemical leavening systems made with potassium bicarbonate instead of sodium bicarbonate fit into these proposed guidelines by reducing sodium and increasing potassium. AB Mauri provides details on sodium and potassium levels in our nutritional information booklets on each individual product we produce. This information can then be used by our customers to formulate their end products in order to assure they meet their desired nutritional profiles.

What do bakery formulators need to know about putting these ingredients to work today?

We suggest that formulators preparing chemically-leavened products should really work with their suppliers to ensure that they are purchasing leavening systems that are optimized for their specific processes. By adjusting the acidulants and varying the amount of sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate, one can achieve a significantly different rate of reaction. Bench tolerance can be adjusted to fit a specific bakery process so that end product attributes are achieved.