The firm's TasteEssentials innovation is designed to tap into the growing demand for salt-reduced products, and help manufacturers convince consumers that salt-reduced food can taste just as good.
"Applying scientific expertise in both biotechnology and botanical isolates, Givaudan has developed the capability to significantly improve the taste profile of foods that are reduced in sodium," said Hugo Felix, head of Givaudan's global savoury business unit.
Europeans eat too much salt. The UK government for example estimates that processed foods, from soups and sauces to breakfast cereals and snacks, contribute about 75 per cent to people's salt intakes. But the problem for food makers has been developing salt substitutes that actually taste good.
So far, the most effective means of reducing sodium by more than 25 per cent is to replace sodium chloride with potassium chloride, or KCl. But while KCl helps to maintain salty taste, it also contributes off-notes that many consumers find unpleasant.
The fact is that taste remains a dominant concern in determining consumer preference, and poor salt imitations have led to a number of discontinued product lines. Givaudan however believes that it has tackle this thorny issue of flavour maintenance.
The firm claims that its customized natural flavour system modifies off-notes exhibited by KCl and enhances overall saltiness.
According to Michael Stead, global savoury product manager, "these new flavour capabilities in the TasteEssentials for Salt Reduction programme will help food manufacturers address the consumer's growing desire for clean, consumer-friendly labelling, since they are globally natural, contain no major allergens, and are both Kosher and Halal".
In addition, the natural flavour system allows Givaudan to offer flavours with non-characterizing taste profiles, such as the natural savoury base flavour, as well as flavours with specific profiles and characteristics. Stead claims that the innovation is effective across a multitude of products, including soups, bouillons, sauces, dressings, frozen ready meals, and salty snacks.
There has been a noticeable shift away from salt in recent years. According to market analyst Mintel, the salt sector in the UK has seen sales fall 13 per cent from £23 million in 2000 to about £20 million this year.
Table and cooking salt have been the main casualties, losing 15 per cent and 17 per cent of volume sales respectively between 2003 and 2005. In contrast, sea/rock salt and low sodium alternatives have increased, but between them they account for just 20 per cent of the total salt market, not enough to stem the decline.
Switzerland-based Givaudan owns operations in 40 countries worldwide, and recorded sales of CHF 2.68 billion (€1.73bn) in 2004.