Consumer and scientific data from such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mintel and the International Food Information Council point to a reality: Food companies will face pressure to reduce sodium content in their products for some time to come. For the grain-based foods industry, the questions become how and how much.

The American Bakers Association, Washington, supports an incremental approach that will allow consumers’ pallets to adjust to less salty foods.

Ingredient suppliers also offer ways to replace sodium in leavening systems.

Less than 10% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to recommended levels, according to the June 24 report “Sodium intake in adults – United States, 2005-2006” found in the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” from the Atlanta-based C.D.C. U.S. adults consume an average of 3,466 mg of sodium per day, higher than the maximum 2,300 mg in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“Given the considerable overconsumption of sodium by most adults and the effect of sodium on blood pressure, policy and environmental changes are needed to reduce sodium intake across the U.S. population,” the report said.

Grains provide 36.9% of the sodium content in the U.S. diet followed by dishes containing meat, poultry and fish at 27.9%. On an individual serving basis, grain-based foods are not high in sodium content, said Lee Sanders, senior vice-president, government relations and public affairs, for the A.B.A. Adding up those servings in a day leads to high sodium consumption.

“We’ve supported an incremental reduction approach,” she said of sodium reduction.

The A.B.A. in an October meeting will discuss sodium reduction and potential target levels to reach over a 5-year period, Ms. Sanders said. For example, A.B.A. members will talk about how logical it might be to aim for a level of 400 mg of sodium per 100 grams of bread. The A.B.A. may help establish voluntary incremental reduction goals, but it wants consumers to accept reductions and not shun low sodium products because of poor sensory qualities, Ms. Sanders said.

“Cutting a little bit each year over a certain period of time is probably the best approach,” Ms. Sanders said. “It allows the consumer’s pallet to adjust.”

The A.B.A. pointed out the need for a certain amount of salt in baked foods in an April 21 news release.

“Salt plays a critical role in the production of bread, contributing greatly to product quality, taste and texture,” the A.B.A. said. “Drastically reducing sodium in a short time frame would likely discourage consumption of whole grain and enriched grain foods that include key nutrients, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid and fiber.”

Consumers soon will taste Pepperidge Farm products with less sodium than before. Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., said on Sept. 20 that its Pepperidge Farm division further will reduce sodium across its portfolio of 84 bread varieties, rolls and bagels. By February 2011, 69 varieties, or 80%, of Pepperidge Farm products will be at least 25% lower in sodium than regular bread, rolls and bagels.

Six in 10 Americans regularly purchase reduced/lower sodium foods, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2010 Food & Health Survey, which involved contacting 1,024 people from April 30 to May 17. Of those who purchased reduced sodium products, 58% purchased canned soup, ranking it as the highest food category although grain-based food categories were represented. Of those who purchased reduced sodium products, 48% purchased snacks like chips and crackers, 22% purchased ready-to-eat cereal, 18% purchased bread or rolls, 15% purchased pizza and 12% purchased cakes, brownies, muffins or cookies.

The Mintel report “Attitudes toward sodium and high-fructose corn syrup reduction – U.S. – August 2010” revealed 57% of respondents limit their use of packaged foods because they are believed to be high in sodium.

“This suggests that manufacturers will want to continue to develop more low sodium snack and packaged meal options in the future,” the report said.

Offering free samples may be a critical element of low sodium and salt-free products, according to Mintel, since 45% believe that low sodium alternatives do not taste as good as full salt options. Companies also may want to consider social media campaigns that encourage users to discuss their experiences in blogs and social networking sites.

There are four main challenges with sodium reduction, said Barbara Heidolph, technical service principal, ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis. Besides the obvious sensory challenges, safety and functional issues may appear. If salt is taken out of a grain-based food, water activity increases, which means less inhibition on microorganisms.

For a third challenge, companies will incur labeling costs to convert packaging. Finally, consumer perception may be a challenge. When consumers see a product promoted for having less sodium, they may assume it has less taste than the traditional product, Ms. Heidolph said. As a result, some companies have gone stealth, or not publicized that they have lowered sodium content in a product.

In chemically leavened baked foods, sodium bicarbonate is a leavening base, source of carbon

dioxide, Ms. Heidolph said. Sources of sodium in chemical leavening are sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and sodium-based leavening acids. Because of costs, bakers generally should look at reducing sodium chloride first followed by the sodium-based leavening acids and then sodium bicarbonate.

ICL Performance Products offers the Levona family of leavening acids to replace sodium. Levona (calcium acid pyrophosphate) is available in two grades. Levona.Opus offers a slow-delayed leavening action and is ideal for frozen and refrigerated products, according to ICL Performance Products. Levona.Brio delivers the carbon dioxide necessary for leavening early in the baking process, which makes it ideal for use in “better-for-you” cakes, biscuits, muffins, tortillas and baking powders, according to ICL Performance Products. It has a tolerance similar to sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP 28).

Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, N.J., offers Cal-Rise, a sodium-free, calcium-based leavening acid. It is a chemical mixture of calcium acid pyrophosphate and monocalcium phosphate, anhydrous produced by a patented process. Cal-Rise may replace SAPP 28. Bakers using Cal-Rise generally may achieve a sodium reduction of 25% to 30%, said John Brodie, technical services manager, bakery, at Innophos.

Balchem Corp., New Hampton, N.Y., offers Bakeshure Complete, a pre-balanced blend of sodium bicarbonate and encapsulated monocalcium phosphate that has been shown to decrease the sodium contributed by chemical leavening by up to 50%, without any unexpected changes in functionality.

Taste becomes more of an issue when replacing sodium in salty grain-based snacks such as pretzels and crackers. In salty snacks, manufacturers may put the salt on top of the snack to deliver more of a taste hit and reduce the amount of salt needed for the desired salt flavor, Ms. Heidolph said.

Ingredient suppliers offer solutions for replacing salt without taking away any salty taste (see related story above).

Some ingredients enhance salt’s flavor, thus allowing grain-based food companies to use less salt while achieving the same level of taste. Other ingredients work with potassium chloride, which may replace salt but also may bring about an unwanted aftertaste. The ingredients eliminate such an aftertaste.

Bakers also should be aware of the sodium content in syrup, icing and other toppings added to such products as cakes and muffins, Mr. Brodie said. The cheese, meat and sauces incorporated into pizzas increase sodium content, too. Reducing the sodium content in leavening systems may mean bakers will not have to reduce sodium content so much in other areas, Mr. Brodie said.

Salt Institute warns against sodium reduction

The next Dietary Guidelines for Americans potentially may recommend daily maximum sodium intake of 1,500 mg, down from 2,300 mg in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to the Salt Institute, Washington, reduced salt in food will fuel the obesity epidemic as people will consume more to satisfy their natural sodium appetite and their hunger for taste satisfaction. Possible unintended consequences from insufficient salt intake include cognitive impairment, adverse infant neurodevelopment and increased attention deficits and falls in the elderly, according to the Salt Institute.

“Previous Guidelines made rigid recommendations on fat, portraying them as scientifically sound, yet had to be withdrawn when the actual science proved them wrong,” said Morton Satin, vice-president of science and research for the Salt Institute. “I believe this grim lesson will be repeated once more with salt. Healthy humans, all around the world, consume salt within a relatively narrow range, controlled by their natural physiological control mechanisms. Trying to trump biology with flawed policy is pure folly.”

Keep in flavor while taking out sodium

When companies take sodium out of a product, keeping in the salty taste may become a challenge. Plenty of ingredient suppliers offer options for grain-based food manufacturers wanting to meet that challenge:

??Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., offers the ReduxSo flavor system, which works in conjunction with potassium chloride but modifies the aftertaste of potassium chloride.

??Biorigin Ingredients, Sao Paulo, Brazil, offers the Bioenhance line that increases the perceived intensity of the salt flavor without adding salt.

??Cargill Salt, Minneapolis, offers Premier potassium chloride, which is a granular, food grade, odorless, white crystalline salt. It contains tricalcium phosphate as an anti-caking agent.

??Givaudan Flavours, Vernier, Switzerland, has developed a sensory language called Sense It Salt that enables a more accurate description of the taste effects of salt. Such effects may be broken down into distinct temporal phases that influence the flavor profile of the product application.

??Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland, offers sub4salt, a mineral salts blend. According to Jungbunzlauer, bread produced with 22.9 grams of sub4salt/1000 kg of flour instead of 20 grams of sodium chloride may result in a 25% sodium reduction without significant differences in taste, typical appearance parameters or production process.

??Sensient Flavors L.L.C., Indianapolis, offers natural flavor solutions that may reduce sodium by 25% to 35% or more per serving.

??Smart Salt, Inc., Arnold, Calif., offers Smart Salt, which eliminates up to 60% of the sodium found in typical salt. The Smart Salt formulation includes potassium and magnesium.

??Wild Flavors, Erlanger, Ky., offers SaltTrim, which works in concert with potassium chloride in the finished product to reduce up to 50% of the sodium. SaltTrim helps alleviate the bitterness and metallic off-tastes and allows for customization in levels of potassium chloride in the finished product.

??Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wis., offer KCLean salt, which combines sodium cholride adn potassium cholride.

??Zumbro River Brand, Albert Lea, Minn., has developed two snack and cereal bases with minimal sodium. Ancient grains puffs have no appreciable sodium in a 28-gram serving. Whey/multigrain scoops have 30 grams of sodium per 28-gram serving.