To successfully lower sodium levels in baked foods, Bill McKeown, vice-president of technology, AB Mauri, Chesterfield, MO, recommends a gradual approach. By doing so, the baker can measure and respond to consumer preferences, acting to adjust formulations on a timely basis. This exclusive Q&A session covers sodium-reduction strategies involving a number of ingredients.

Baking & Snack: What is the best approach you recommend bakers do to cut the sodium content of the foods they offer consumers? Why?

Bill McKeown: When bakers determine that lower sodium content is desired from their consumers, AB Mauri recommends a conservative approach. Bakers can begin sodium reduction by cutting the amount of salt (sodium chloride) added to their formula by 5 to 10%. Depending on their starting point, this change in sodium will not impact processing to any significant degree. Changes that are required can be managed through normal processing adjustments.

Salt reductions impact processing of the dough, but flavor attributes are critical and must also be considered when making any changes to the formula. Focusing on salt reductions over a longer time period allows the baker time to measure and respond to consumer preferences. If consumer acceptance to initial change is gained, the process can be repeated with an additional conservative approach to further reduce the sodium level. These conservative changes, over longer time periods, generally will not impact consumer preference as compared to making significant changes quickly.

What changes in bakery formulation will this change require? What advice do you give your customers who are considering such alterations?

The direct addition of salt in the formula is likely the single most significant source of sodium a baker can target for sodium reductions. Bakers must look at all sodium sources and then review the significance of each relative to their processing. Typically, traditional yeast foods and dough conditioners are sources of sodium. In most cases, these traditional sources can be modified by the supplier with little impact to processing and ultimately reduce sodium levels in the final formula. In chemically leavened products, direct addition of salt to the formula and traditional baking powders are considered high sodium contributors. Baking powders can be reformulated to provide similar reaction rates with lower sodium levels.

Checking all ingredients for sodium levels is critical when reviewing sodium in the final baked product. Also, along with processing conditions, bakers must pay careful attention to the flavor aspects that the salt contributes to and gain customer acceptance to any significant changes. When moving from sodium chloride to alternative salts such as ammonium chloride or potassium chloride, flavor profiles might change and negatively impact sales.

Can you point to successful sodium reduction projects?

Many customers have conducted in-house tests of various salt replacement products with great success, however, have experienced “sticker shock” when comparing costs. AB Mauri offers various yeast-based components or low sodium leavening systems, like AB Mauri High 5 and AB Mauri Low Sodium Double-Acting Baking Powder, which allow for low sodium products with no flavor change.

Sea salt has also been used to replace sodium chloride. Sodium content in sea salt is lower than table salt and can be used relatively easily; however, flavor profiles should be critically checked prior to any formulation changes. It is also important to know that sea salt flavor profiles can be inconsistent and are entirely dependent on the source of the material.

Low sodium, chemically leavened products, such as tortillas, biscuits, and many other sweet goods, can be leavened with low sodium or no sodium baking powders. These leavening systems reduce sodium contribution by 50 to 100% by replacing the sodium bicarbonate and sodium salts with potassium bicarbonates and calcium salts. Many of these new leavening systems provide similar rates of reaction; however, bakers should work with their suppliers to ensure consistent performance and flavor attributes are achieved when moving to lower sodium products.

What products does AB Mauri offer to help bakers reduce the amount of sodium in their bread and rolls?

For bakers seeking to reduce sodium levels in their bread and rolls, AB Mauri offers Low Sodium Baking Powder and Sodium Free Baking Powder. These double-acting baking powders reduce the sodium content in the leavening system by 50 and 100%, respectively.

In addition to Low Sodium Baking Powder, AB Mauri has developed specific blends of primary grown inactive yeast autolysates and yeast extracts that are naturally high in nucleotides that will bring out the umami flavor in baked goods. The use of AB Mauri High 5 will enhance the salty notes of low sodium baked products to help meet consumers’ needs of acceptable flavor profiles.