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Microscopic hollow salty balls are gaining momentum in the US, says Tate & Lyle

By Elaine Watson , 16-Apr-2012
Last updated on 16-Apr-2012 at 14:42 GMT2012-04-16T14:42:36Z

Some bakers have been able to slash salt levels in bread without impacting volume, texture or weight using Soda-Lo. They have also seen increases in shelf-life as the tiny salt crystals cross-link gluten in dough more effectively, helping to lock in moisture.

Some bakers have been able to slash salt levels in bread without impacting volume, texture or weight using Soda-Lo. They have also seen increases in shelf-life as the tiny salt crystals cross-link gluten in dough more effectively, helping to lock in moisture.

The microscopic salt crystals at the center of a sodium reduction licensing deal between Tate & Lyle and UK-based firm Eminate are starting to attract significant interest Stateside, says the ingredients giant.

Soda-Lo, which is engineered using a patented process that re-crystallizes salt to create free-flowing, microscopic hollow balls just 5-10 microns in size, offers formulators a distinct advantage over other sodium reduction strategies as it can still be listed as ‘salt’ on food labels.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the recent IFT Wellness 2012 conference in Chicago, a Tate & Lyle spokesman said Soda-Lo was also proving more versatile than many observers had predicted when it first hit the headlines, although savory snacks and bakery are still the most promising areas.

Salted peanuts, bread… and tomato soup

Logically, for example, the micro-crystals should be best-suited to topical applications such as potato chips, he said, as once dissolved, salt is salt.

However, Soda-Lo has also helped firms achieve significant sodium reductions in a wide variety of products from tomato soup to cheese and bread, he said.

We find it works surprisingly well in bread and starchy foods, but also tomato soups and other tomato-based products, although we’re not sure exactly why this is.”

He added: “It makes a real difference when you add it during the manufacturing process. Adding it with the fat phase can help coat the sphere and protect it, for example.

“There is interest from a wide range of manufacturers but probably the most in bread and topical applications like salty snacks. You can get a 50% reduction in salt and deliver the same salty taste on salted peanuts, for example.”

Why small is beautiful

It is well-known that the smaller the crystals, the higher the salt perception. However, simply grinding salt to make the particles smaller does not deliver as the tiny particles quickly lose their free-flowing properties and stick together.

By contrast, Soda-Lo has been engineered using a patented process by its creator Dr Stephen Minter that re-crystallizes salt to create free-flowing, microscopic hollow balls that at 5-10 microns are a fraction of the size of standard salt (c.200-500 microns), deliver an intense, salty hit on the taste buds, and can still be listed as ‘salt’ on labels.

Exclusive global tie up

In the UK, where Soda-Lo was first launched, the biggest successes have been in the bread and bakery sector, but extensive trials have also been conducted with cheese, vegetarian sausages, crisps, sauces, soups, breakfast cereals, muffins, pizza bases, rice snacks and bakery premixes.

The results in bread have been particularly encouraging, enabling plant bakers to make significant sodium reductions without impacting volume, texture or weight. Tests also suggest Soda-Lo can increase shelf-life in bread as the tiny salt crystals cross-link gluten in dough more effectively, helping to lock in moisture.

Tate & Lyle, which struck an exclusive global deal with Eminate to sell and market Soda-Lo last fall, said it would continue to made in the UK by toll manufacture in the short term.

But group vice president investor and media relations, Mathew Wooton added: “At some point in the future Tate & Lyle may decide to manufacture Soda-Lo ourselves. It is still very early days for this product.

"We've got a lot of firms that are experimenting with it at the moment, so there are a lot of samples out there in the market, and we have done a lot of application work and work with customers since we announced the deal last October.

"The plan is to have a global launch with a marketing campaign later in the year."

Click here to read a round up of our recent coverage on the challenges and opportunities in sodium reduction.

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