According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, most of the US population consumes sodium in excess of daily guidelines. This overage is associated with raising blood pressure, a major risk factor for the nation’s first (heart disease) and fourth (stroke) leading causes of death. Thus, there’s an overwhelming consensus that if Americans reduce sodium intake to more acceptable levels — the 2,300 mg per day CDC recommends — they could live healthier and longer lives.

Bakers respond

In early 2012, CDC issued a report identifying the Top 10 categories of foods responsible for 44% of people’s sodium intake. Both bread/rolls and savory snack foods were on that list. Snacks got on the list because many tend to be highly salted. Bread and roll products, however, are not necessarily high in sodium on an individual item basis, but because they tend to be frequently consumed, the category collectively contributes significant sodium to the diet.

The agency estimated that if manufacturers of these foods reduced their sodium content by 25%, they could help prevent an estimated 28,000 annual deaths. In response, these food processors have been trying to un-salt their offerings, but this is not an easy feat because salt is often a crucial ingredient. Its roles range from influencing safety, quality and integrity to impacting taste and flavor.

For bakers, reducing sodium while maintaining product quality and taste can be challenging because they rely on numerous sodium-containing ingredients from basic table salt to leavening agents. Most bakers are learning the key to reducing a product’s total sodium content requires controlled partial replacement of all sodium-containing ingredients with those that have similar functionality but less sodium.

Finding a suitable substitute for salt has been quite difficult because of its unique, clean, salty taste and flavor-enhancing properties. Tate & Lyle, Hoffman Estates, IL, believes it has the solution with SODA-LO Salt Microspheres, a salt-reduction ingredient made from salt. 

“Salt is a necessity in most baked grain-based foods — not just for taste but function, too. It acts as a preservative and texturizing aid, for example,” said David Lewis, Tate & Lyle’s director of health and wellness product management. “SODA-LO tastes, labels and functions like salt because it is salt. It does not contain any of the bitter compounds that some salt replacements rely on to keep sodium content low.”

Sourced by the company’s Open Innovation team, Tate & Lyle negotiated an exclusive licensing agreement with Eminate, the technology arm of Nottingham University, the ingredient’s creator. “Using a patent-pending, spray-drying technology, we are able to turn standard salt crystals into free-flowing, hollow salt microspheres,” said Andrew Hoffman, PhD, the company’s director of health and wellness innovation. “The microsphere structure is facilitated by the all-natural hydrocolloid gum acacia. In most applications, the residual gum acacia level is extremely low. Thus, when SODA-LO is used in most applications, it is declared on the ingredient legend as simply ‘salt’ or ‘sodium chloride.’ ”

It is salt

SODA-LO is salt, just in a slightly different configuration than traditional salt. Typical salt particles range from 40 to 800 microns in diameter and are solid. SODA-LO Salt Microspheres are smaller in size and hollow. The hollow format efficiently delivers salty taste by maximizing surface area relative to volume. The tiny spheres also dissolve more rapidly on the tongue, further contributing to that desirable initial impact of salty taste.

“We have been able to reduce salt levels by 25 to 50% in baked foods and salty snacks,” Dr. Hoffman said. “The ingredient works best in low-moisture systems or when a fat or oil phase is used as the delivery vehicle because it is necessary to keep these smaller, lower-density crystals intact when they reach the tongue.”

Much like traditional sodium chloride, SODA-LO is shelf stable, with an approximate two-year ambient shelf life. It comes in two grades: Extra Fine and Fine. “Extra Fine has an average particle size of 20 microns and provides the best distribution in a food matrix,” Dr. Hoffman explained. “It promotes flowability and resistance to caking in hot, humid environments. This is the ingredient that a baker would choose when the salt is added directly to a dough or batter.

“For topical applications such as on a saltine, bagel or breadstick, Fine is the grade of choice,” he added. “The average particle size is 200 microns, and it is designed to provide the appearance of salt.”

As public health advocates continue to call for reduction in sodium intake, consumers will pay more attention to the sodium content of everyday foods. “Having a salt reduction alternative that’s made from real salt and delivers on that taste expectation could be the first step toward breaking the link in people’s minds that a low-sodium product is a bland one,” Dr. Hoffman concluded.

For more information on SODA-LO, visit