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Salt reduction, the modern day taste challenge
By Aprill Allen
Salt consumption has risen to alarming levels for most people, with the average intake being twice the recommended maximum level, according to the World Health Organisation. Snacks, bakery, and processed meats and cheeses contribute the majority of salt intake. However, with sodium having so much impact on taste and flavour, consumers have been reluctant to let go.
Control over salt intake is limited for consumers who eat out a lot and for those relying on ready-made meals. Food producers wanting to offer reduced-sodium products have an opportunity to provide a flavour boost via innovative formats that put the application of finishing salts in consumers’ hands. When the consumer can control the taste they, counter-intuitively, are more likely to try a healthier salt-reduced meal option, especially when packaged as a premium artisanal product. Finishing salts can be combined with additional flavours from herbs and other spices and sprinkled on or delivered as a liquid spritz prior to serving.
For bakery and other processed foods, reducing sodium in the manufacturing phase can be more complex, because sodium also impacts texture. Bakery producers can look to the natural glutamates from sourdough starter cultures to reduce reliance on salt while appealing to consumer palates. Other processed food categories can consider replacers such as yeast, soy and vegetable proteins as alternatives to the now-unfavourable monosodium glutamate (MSG), or the naturally occurring glutamates found in seaweed and tomatoes.
Regardless of the low-sodium recipes food producers may develop, uptake of alternatives pivots on piquing consumer interest through product label messaging and marketing. Consumers have a preference for natural flavour enhancers and covert salt-reduction claims, such as “lightly salted” or “healthy heart” messaging. Given the potential to reduce deaths from the over-consumption of salt by an estimated 2.5 million per year, consumer education may well be a critical component of the marketing mix.
Read more on reducing salt or connect with our community to discuss the options that may be the most relevant for you.