Salt of the Earth on expanding reformulation potential of umami

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Could Salt of the Earth's Mediterranean Umami help cut sugar and salt? ©iStock
Could Salt of the Earth's Mediterranean Umami help cut sugar and salt? ©iStock

Related tags: Monosodium glutamate, Glutamic acid

Israel-based Salt of the Earth expanding distribution of its Mediterranean Umami flavouring, a product that the company says can help companies in their reformulation efforts by “heightening” taste perceptions of salt – and possibly even sugar.

Israel-based Salt of the Earth expanding distribution of its Mediterranean Umami flavouring, a product that the company says can help companies in their reformulation efforts by “heightening” taste perceptions of salt – and possibly even sugar.

The group showcased the sodium reduction and savoury flavour enhancer’s potential to help reformulate salad dressings during Food Matters Live in London last month. The flavouring is made from a combination of sea salt and plant extracts that are rich in umami flavour compounds.

Mediterranean Umami is distributed in by Kreglinger Specialties in the UK, Benelux, the Netherlands and France. Additionally, Salt of the Earth announced today that it has reached a distribution agreement with AB Ingredients to bring the product to the North American market.

According to business unit director David Hart, the reformulation tool fits a specific niche that is not met by other salt reduction options.

“There are four basic technologies to reduce sodium. One is just gradually to reduce the sodium. You can’t do it overnight and usually there is some sort of threshold that below that level it just doesn’t taste very good and consumer acceptance goes down. Another way is to use alternative salts, specifically potassium chloride or potassium chloride mixtures. On the one hand, they are really easy to use, on the other they usually have off-flavours that limit the amount of salt you can replace. It becomes a much more complicated reformulation and those ingredients are not clean label,”​ he told FoodNavigator at Food Matters Live.

“Another way is umami flavour enhancers: monosodium glutamate, yeast extracts, hydrolysed vegetable protein. MSG technically works really well, gives a very clean umami flavour and it is safe – but consumers don’t want it. None of them are clean label. The last technology is different plant extracts and spices. We are kind of in between umami enhancers and spices.

“The benefits are that it is clean label, it is natural and it has a versatile flavour profile and doesn’t implant any off-flavours.”

Salt of the Earth has found that its Mediterranean Umami flavouring enables “significant”​ salt reduction of between 25% and 45%, Hart said.

Sugar and​ spice?

Salt of the Earth is also in the early stages of looking at applications for Mediterranean Umami beyond taking salt out, the business executive revealed.

“Umami is the fifth flavour – it has its own receptors on the tongue – but there is a connection between salt and umami. Both on the tongue and in your brain there is this relationship that science doesn’t exactly know how it works, but it is there. You can compensate for salt with umami,”​ Hart said.

There is also the possibility, he suggested, that umami can be used to reduce the sugar content of recipes.

“One of the things umami does is enhance flavours. We are investigating the connection between umami and sugar.”

Hart stressed that this research remains in its infancy. “This is very, very new. We are just at the beginning of it… We have a food technologist who works on lots of different products, incorporating umami into recipes mainly for salt reduction. We are now starting to look at salt and sugar reduction. The initial results are very promising. So far we are looking at savoury things that have some sort of sweet or sugar component – so Thousand Island Dressing or Ketchup.”

If this research does show positive results, Hart said that it will enable Salt of the Earth’s reformulation products to address sugar reduction in addition to salt reduction, two issues that are high on the agenda of food manufacturers.

“Right now sugar reduction is really sexy and a lot of our customers are prioritising it. That helps position us in a place where our customers are taking a lot of action. That said, a lot of people still want to reduce salt and sodium. It opens up avenues that are a high priority with our customers.”

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