Because salt plays such an important role in the flavor of any food made with it, getting reduced-sodium products to taste right is a major task for formulators. Deborah Rolf, executive vice-president and president, Americas, for Smart Salt, Inc., Arnold, CA, describes how a patented taste enhancement technology can do the job.

Baking & Snack: What types of salt does Smart Salt offer that could help cut out sodium in baked foods and snacks.

Deborah Rolf: Smart Salt is the brand name given to a sodium reduction system based on a patented taste enhancement technology from Finland. This sodium reduction system is based on a stable co-crystal of the mineral salt, primarily magnesium chloride. Smart Salt provides sodium reduction possibilities in baked goods and snacks from 20 to 60%, which means that most targets for sodium reduction can be met and exceeded.

What is it about these products that enable lowering sodium content?

Smart Salt is a co-crystal based on magnesium chloride. Co-crystallisation is an efficient way to modify physiochemical and physical properties of salts and produces very stable products with predictable behavior. Solid state properties such as solubility, bioavailability, stability, hygroscopicity and handling properties can be improved. All this is possible without any chemical modification. Traditional dry evaporation techniques such as those used to produce sea salts produce a mixture of salts with high hygroscopicity. Natural chlorides of magnesium and potassium can also have high levels of bromide and mixtures of other anions in co-precipitated mixtures. Smart Salt proprietary products have improved stability vs. precipitated sea salts, and this is why they can be used as table top, topical applications, dry powders and seasonings used in baked goods and snacks.

Most factory systems handle salt as a dry crystalline product. Smart Salt is designed to handle like salt on a 1:1 replacement basis, and it can do this because of its simple composition but predictable behavior in food systems. Smart Salt looks, handles, tastes and functions like salt.

What scientific or application research supports this reduction?

A clinical intervention study using Smart Salt 50 (50% sodium reduction) in processed foods has shown that this mineral salt was likely to have enhanced the good compliance to sodium restriction throughout the intervention period of eight weeks (1). According to Sarkinnen et al (1), the taste profile of test products (pizza, bread, Edam cheese, casseroles, ham, soups, salami, table salt, meat balls) was good and products could not be differentiated from normally salted foods. Consumer acceptance trials in the US and Europe have also confirmed these observations where subjects were unable to tell the difference between products made with regular salt and Smart Salt at 40% and 50% sodium reduction levels in vegetables, soups, bread, frankfurters and snacks including potato chips (2-6).

Salt replacers based solely on either potassium chloride, magnesium chloride or magnesium sulfate can taste bitter or metallic in high concentrations, limiting their use as salt substitutes in foods. The Smart Salt sodium reduction system offers a balanced mineral profile. When applied in food products it provides very salt-like flavor profile with no additional bitter or metallic off-notes when used at the same use levels as regular salt (7).

The taste intensity and taste quality of aqueous solutions containing sodium ions differ as a function of the anions that are present (8). This explains in part why the Smart Salt technology produces very salt-like taste profiles even at very high sodium reduction levels: There are no competing anions in the mixture, only chloride anions. Mixtures of minerals with many different anions, such as sea salts containing sulfates, do not have such “clean” taste profiles in aqueous solution at equivalent sodium reduction levels (40% sodium reduction) (7).

It is well known that the bitter and metallic notes from high levels of potassium chloride substitution can be offset by commercial bitter blockers. However, bitter blockers are not required for optimized composition of Smart Salt. The patented Smart Salt co-crystallized minerals have optimized flavor profiles that mirror regular salt at sodium reduction levels from 20 to 60%. Cation, anion and absolute concentrations of these ions all seem to be important for optimal salty taste and minimal metallic and bitterness (7).

Ms. Rolf offered a case study of bread, “Taste, Functionality and Preservation” that stated:

“It has been possible to produce acceptable bread products with 40 to 50% salt reduction (sodium addition levels of between 240 mg and 288 mg per 100 g) using Smart Salt. These breads have been shown by consumer panel testing to have no significant differences in terms of overall liking, appearance, aroma, flavor and texture than breads made with regular salt (6).

“In addition, microbiological challenge tests in Smart Salt 40 (40% salt reduction) containing bread, using Bacillus cereus (both a potential pathogen and “rope” former), indicate that Smart Salt 40 performs at least as well as regular salt. In addition, Smart Salt 40 significantly increases process lethality of Bacillus spp. in combination with heat applied during baking compared with regular salt. Total Aerobic Viable Counts were significantly reduced for the Smart Salt 40-containing bread at storage day No. 6 at both storage temperatures (21- and 25-degrees-C, 70- and 77-degrees-F) (9,10,11). This type of preservation is exceptional for a reduced-sodium product and would probably not be possible by using flavor substitutes for salt. This improvement in aerobic and fungal count was observed without added preservatives.

“In higher-moisture products such as crumpets, it has been shown that mold-free shelf-life can be increased by at least one day at ambient storage and considerably longer in refrigerated storage with the use of Smart Salt. This has considerable consequences for manufacturers and the associated distribution costs (12).”

What should the formulator know about successfully taking baked foods and snacks from bench to production floor?

Initially a formulator should understand the sodium reduction required to meet the target. It should be understood that there are often other sources of sodium in the recipe other than sodium chloride. However, the simplest way to reduce sodium is to directly replace regular salt with Smart Salt.

In yeast-leavened products such as bread it is important to note proofing times for dough containing Smart Salt  are slightly faster than regular salt. It has been shown, however, that when mixing times are optimized, no difficulties are observed in dough rheology and subsequent baking performance at 40% sodium replacement levels with magnesium chloride (13).

Plant product feasibility has been evaluated for Smart Salt and has culminated in the commercial production of bread (14).


(1) Sarkkinen ES, Kastarinen MJ, Niskanen TH, Karjaleinen PH, Venalainen TM, Udani JK and Niskanen LK. Feasibility and anti-hypertensive effect of replacing regular salt with mineral salt rich in magnesium and potassium in subjects with mildly elevated blood pressure. Nutrition Journal, 2011, Vol. 10:88

(2) National Food Laboratory Inc. (2008) Consumer acceptance test of hot dog, potato chips, green beans and chicken broth containing a salt substitute. NFL # ST9604

(3) Leatherhead Food Research UK. A Confidential Report – Progressive Profiling, Frankfurters. August 2011.

(4) Leatherhead Food Research UK. A Confidential Report – Consumer Acceptance, Frankfurters. August 2011.

(5) Leatherhead Food Research UK. A Confidential Report – Progressive Profiling, Bread. July 2011.

(6) Leatherhead Food Research UK. A Confidential Report – Consumer Acceptance, Bread. July 2011

(7) Leatherhead Food Research, UK. A Confidential Report – Quantitative Descriptive Analysis – Salts. June 2011

(8) Delwiche JF, Halpern BP, Desmione JA. Anion Size of Sodium Salts and Simple Taste Reaction Times. Physiology & Behaviour.1999, Vol 66: 1 : 27-32

(9) Evaluation of Smart Salt in Bread. Microbiological Challenge Test – Bacillus spp.. Leatherhead Food Research Confidential Project Report (June 2011).

(10) Honors Project 2012. Evaluation of the effect on the microbial shelf-life of partial replacement of regular salt with Smart Salt  in bread. Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. June 2012

(11) Mitchell H and Komitopoulou E. Microbial effects of replacing sodium chloride with a magnesium-containing mineral salt in white bread. Agro Food Industry HiTech March/April 2013 – Vol 24 (2).

(12) Invita, New Zealand. A Confidential Report – Mould-free shelf-life – Crumpets. August 2013.

(13) Salovaara H (1982). Effect of partial sodium chloride replacement by other salts on wheat dough rehology and breadmaking. Cereal Chem 59 (5):422-426