New umami power aims to cut salt in snacks amid consumer binge

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Salt of the Earth
Image: Salt of the Earth

Related tags Salt intake Salt Snack snacking

With snacking up during the COVID-19 pandemic, sodium reduction specialist Salt of the Earth has developed a new, clean-label sodium-reduction ingredient specifically designed for snack applications.

The Israel-based company already makes liquid Mediterranean Umami, designed as a salt replacement in multiple applications -- mainly processed meats, veggie ‘meats’, ready-meals and soups and sauces. It has now launched Mediterranean Umami powder, as the liquid sodium reduction ingredient cannot be applied to snacks.

According to firm, the new sodium reduction ingredient is designed as a 1:1 drop-in replacement for salt in snack applications, yielding a 40% reduction in sodium.

The company believes that reducing the amount of salt in snacks is an on-trend task for snack companies. According to a newly published report by John Lewis and Waitrose, UK consumers have changed their shopping and eating​ behavior during the lockdown, with 38% of the consumers admitting to increased snacking. And, according to the New York Times​, for many people, strict personal rules for food adopted before the quarantine have eased, and they are reaching for foods that trigger a comforting childhood memory or are simply a go-to snack to relieve stress.

It added that the umami powder is also in demand from spice blenders and flavour houses as a tool to provide flavour and reduced sodium in seasoning blends, as it works in harmony as a key component of complex flavour systems.

The new powder product is a clean-label, plant-based solution designed to maintain the desired savory taste that consumers crave, said David Hart, business unit director for Salt of the Earth.

“One of the key requirements was to maintain a craveable salty and savory flavor as well as being a natural and clean-label ingredient,”​ he said. “Since snack foods typically have a relatively high amount of sodium, Mediterranean Umami powder can provide up to 40% reduction in sodium, or be used incrementally, in order to allow for a significant but lesser reduction in the amount of sodium in the snacks. When incorporated as an addition to a seasoning blend, it can then be applied to the snacks using dusting, tumbling, or oil slurry technologies.”

“Building on the success of our Mediterranean Umami liquid, many customers requested a powder version. The powder is a focused solution and does an amazing job cutting sodium in snacks without sacrificing flavor. It currently is being used by an iconic multinational brand, and we are on track to multiply this success globally.”

According to WHO, April 29, 2020, most people consume too much salt—on average 9–12g per day, or around twice the recommended maximum level of intake of 5g. Salt intake of less than 5g per day can help reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and coronary heart attack for some adults. The growing demand for a powdered sodium reduction solution encouraged Salt of the Earth to develop the new product, it said.

Clean-label sodium reduction ingredient

Hart told FoodNavigator that the company began searching for an all-natural, clean-label sodium reduction ingredient a number of years ago as part of a strategic decision to expand the company’s offering from sea-salt into adjacent categories, like sodium reduction.

“We looked to nature as inspiration – and performed a thorough evaluation of plant-based umami-containing products. The result of this process was our flagship product, Mediterranean Umami, which is a combination of tomatoes, mushroom and seaweed extracts and sea-salt. This unique combination is rich in umami flavor compounds and can be used for sodium reduction and flavor enhancement. Our approach, using of the 'power of plants', and creating a clean-label solution to create healthier food were among the reasons that we received an IFT Innovation Award in 2017.”

Mediterranean Umami Powder is specifically targeted for sodium reduction in savory snacks. It is a combination of tomatoes, mushroom and seaweed extracts and sea-salt - are all ingredients that are easily identified and that consumers might have in their kitchen cupboard. The only other ingredient is native starch, hence allowing for the product to still be considered natural.  

“We have worked on our Mediterranean Umami Powder for over a year until it was rolled-out to the market,”​ continued Hart. “The first and most important issue was to maintain great flavor, even with this very significant reduction in sodium. In addition, we had to also optimize the technical parameters like particle size and flowability; to make sure that it could be successfully added to a seasoning blend and applied to the snacks.”

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