Reducing sodium has long been a nutritional concern. Even though it’s an essential nutrient, the human body needs a relatively small amount, and most Americans well exceed the daily recommended amount of sodium. High intake is linked to increased risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, leading some consumers to look for low-sodium options whether voluntarily or under doctor’s orders.
“As modern consumers are becoming more health-conscious, especially in their sodium intake, brands are increasingly launching low-sodium or reduced-sodium products to address these needs,” said Mona Clifford, application technologist, sweet flavors, at Sensient Flavors.
Sodium is most often associated with sodium chloride — also known as table salt. It is probably the most obvious starting point when it comes to slashing sodium. However, bakers need to be aware of the hits that may come to their finished product if they take out too much salt to reach sodium targets.
In bread, salt enhances flavor and controls the fermentation rate by limiting enzyme activity in the dough as it rises.
“The latter strengthens the gluten structure and traps the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, providing better texture and volume to the bread,” Ms. Clifford said. “Without salt, the bread will continue to rise during fermentation, and the flavor will become bland.”
Bakers can only reduce salt between 5% and 10% before seeing a negative impact in both taste and function, said Janice Johnson, Ph.D., technical service and application lead for Cargill Salt. At that point, formulators will need a salt replacer or masking agents to accommodate diminished flavor or functionality or enlist another strategy to bolster the reduction from multiple sides.
With less salt, the flavor of the bread becomes less appealing, and dough recipes and processing need to be modified in order to deliver bread of an acceptable quality,” said Paul Bright, innovation manager, AB Mauri North America. “The addition of dough conditioner solutions and natural ferments can aid bakers in their quest to reduce salt while maintaining familiar flavor profiles and processing characteristics.”
AB Mauri’s technical team can help bakers find the right dough conditioner solution for their particular product and process to overcome these end-bake quality issues.
Moreover, a common replacement for sodium chloride is potassium chloride. That’s because when it comes to functionality, potassium chloride can help develop the gluten in a bread formula the same way sodium chloride does.
“Potassium chloride will slow down the fermentation rate so you don’t get a lot of gas produced,” Dr. Johnson explained. “It will help form a strong, tight gluten that will hold in the gas from the yeast fermentation so you get a nice uniform air-cell distribution in the bread.”
A challenge with potassium chloride is the taste. While it does have a salty flavor, its bitter aftertaste often needs to be remedied either in processing or specialty salt replacers.
A year ago, Cargill commissioned a plant to make potassium chloride. This not only provided the company and its customers with a controlled supply chain, but it also enabled Cargill to control the size and shape of potassium chloride to get better taste and functionality.
“Every time you do that you get different sensory properties, which can be pretty effective, especially in topical applications,” Dr. Johnson said.
By changing the shape or size of potassium chloride, she said, the granules or flakes will dissolve at a faster rate and provide a saltier flavor perception. This enables a baker to use less salt or potassium chloride for the same flavor impact, therefore reducing sodium.
Lesaffre’s technical team manages the bitter taste of potassium chloride with flavor enhancers such as yeast extracts and deactivated dry yeast. While yeast extracts have long been used in other food categories to enhance flavor, bakers are increasingly using them to accommodate off-flavors or the loss of flavor when lowering salt levels or replacing some salt with potassium chloride. To improve dough strength, Mr. Deniaud said Lesaffre works with bakers to develop a combination of enzymes and oxidizing agents in specific products.
NuTek’s Salt for Life product employs a patented process that removes the metallic flavor commonly associated with potassium chloride. In partnership with NuTek, Cain Food Industries has seen as much as 40% — sometimes more — sodium reduction with Salt for Life.
“It delivers the salt intensity you look for when eating baked goods, but without the sodium content,” said Tom McCurry, managing director and chief operating officer, Cain Food Industries.
This enables bakers to formulate with potassium chloride without using a flavor masker.
“This helps keep cost under control and deliver a shorter ingredient deck,” he said.
Sensient Flavors’ SensaSalt enhances the positive attributes and diminishes the perception of negative attributes without additional sodium content. This collection of yeast extract-based flavor enhancers reduces sodium while maintaining texture and the flavor profile in bakery applications.