The product should launch in Tesco, Asda and Waitrose "in the next month or so", revealed Nottingham-based firm Eminate, which has patented the technology behind it.
Eminate's chief technical officer Dr Stephen Minter, who will be revealing more details about the product at Food Manufacture's Reformulate 2011 conference next month, engineers the particles using patented technology that changes the structure of salt crystals to create free-flowing, microscopic hollow balls with the consistency of talc.
At 5-10 microns, they are a fraction of the size of standard salt (c.200-500 microns), and deliver an intense hit on the taste buds, but are still listed as 'salt' on food labels. This has proved particularly appealing to firms trying to avoid potassium chloride, flavour enhancers, nucleic acid, yeast extracts and peptides.
The retail product would be marketed with the strapline 'a pinch less salt', said Minter, who was speaking at a nanotechnology event in London organised by Leatherhead Food Research and the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network last week.
80% salt reduction in bread; 50% in Cheddar, 33% in veggie sausages
While Eminate had initially focused on the bakery sector for its micro salt - dubbed SodaLo - it had since conducted extensive trials with Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, vegetarian sausages, crisps, sauces, soups, breakfast cereals, muffins, pizza bases, rice crispie-style snacks and bakery premixes, Minter told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
"We've reduced the salt in Cheddar cheese by 50% with the same taste and shelf-life."
The results in bread have been particularly impressive, enabling plant bakers to cut salt by more than 80% without impacting volume, texture or weight and achieve significant increases in shelf-life as the tiny salt crystals cross-link gluten in dough more effectively, helping to lock in moisture, said Minter.
"In a standard supermarket bloomer we can go from 1.8% salt to 1%, while in a standard plant 800g sliced loaf made with the Chorleywood bread-making process, we've gone from 1.8% to 0.7%."
Oil-insoluble version solves crisps challenge
Crisps had initially been a challenge, as the salt crystals had dissolved in oil on the crisps' surface and lost their impact, he said.
"But then we came up with an oil-insoluble version and it solved the problem. In veggie sausages, we have helped the manufacturer of one famous brand in this market reduce salt by a third."
White salt makes for yellow curry
Trials of the same technology to encapsulate flavours, colours and bioactives such as pharmaceuticals within the balls had also yielded very encouraging results, he added.
"We've been playing around with encapsulating turmeric - which is yellow - inside our salt balls, which means you can add white salt to a curry and instantly turn it yellow."
*Professor Minter will be speaking at Food Manufacture's Reformulate 2011 conference on February 8.
Click here for details.