AkzoNobel’s OneGrain technology—the simple answer to sodium reduction

Published: 04-02-2014

From valuable trade to nutritional worry
Salt’s ability to preserve food was one of the foundations of global civilization. It ended dependence on seasonal availability by allowing food to travel over long distances. It was a desirable food seasoning but, because it was difficult to obtain, it became a highly valued trade item and followed the economic pull along salt roads such as the Via Saleria in Italy. Until the 20th century, salt was a prime mover in national economies and in generating numerous wars. Today it is readily available and relatively cheap; as a result, consumption has increased.

Table salt—it’s all about the taste
Why do we love salt so much? It’s not just the “bite” of the taste—the initial impact—that appeals to us. It also enhances the richness of the food’s flavor and its lingering aftertaste. It even provides freshness and adds to umami—one of the basic food tastes identified by the Japanese. Another Japanese word, kokumi, can be described as the heartiness and effect salt has on other foods—it makes them more appealing to our senses.

Overcoming the flavor challenge
How do we develop a product to ensure it maintains all the taste and quality of regular salt but fits the required low-sodium profile? There are a number of strategies we can use:

  • Reduction: Reduce salt step by step.
  • Physical enhancement: Adjust salt crystals and salt distribution.
  • Cross-modal effects: Use aromas associated with salt.
  • Flavor modulation: Improve “receptability” of salt receptors.
  • Taste loss compensation: Increase use of herbs, spices and flavors, and taste enhancers.
  • Replacement: Use other mineral salts as “salt.”

To replicate the taste of salt completely, we need a combination of some, if not all, of the above. “Adjustment” of salt crystals, for instance by using micro-fine or dendritic salt, can be applied only if salt is not completely dissolved before eating—such as in snack seasonings. “Smart Salt Distribution” is an invention of the Dutch Top Institute of Food & Nutrition.

Cross-modal effects occur when one sense influences the other. Increasing evidence is proving what flavor experts and chefs have known for a while—certain foods such as anchovies, bacon and smoked salmon can increase the perceived saltiness of food. Flavor modulation is the term that describes attempts to directly influence the receptiveness of the taste buds. Can we make the salt receptor give a stronger signal or, if bitter-tasting replacements are used, dampen the bitter receptors? Companies such as Redpoint Bio and Senomyx have developed assays to screen molecules for these abilities. Merely increasing flavor ingredients will also increase the cost. There’s the possibility of using enhancers, of course—well-known examples are amino acids and their salts, the most prominent being MSG, ribonucleotides and yeast extract. Non-Na salts such as KCl, MgCl2, NH4Cl, MgSO4 and CaCl2 can all be evaluated as “salt replacers.” The resulting bitterness can be masked with yeast extract, lysine and, reportedly, sodium gluconate.

Overcoming the technical challenge
But finding a solution to match the original flavor is not enough. Salt has other uses; for example, it is commonly used as a preservative. In meat, it controls the water-binding properties of muscle cells. That, in turn, has an effect on economic yield and the consistency of the meat product. In bread, it controls how the yeast functions. While there are specialized solutions, KCI is a natural—and almost like-for-like—replacement for NaCl.

Potassium chloride—a healthy choice
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has given a positive, scientific view on health claims related to potassium. Potassium is important for maintaining normal blood pressure levels and helps muscles and nerves function properly.
As this message filters through to consumers, there will, no doubt, be a raft of food products aimed at addressing this new nutritional issue. However, this doesn’t mean manufacturers can say what they like about the potential benefits of potassium. European Claims Regulations means there are controls and very strict rules around what is classed as a health claim or nutritional claim. As an ingredient, potassium chloride can be listed on labels as either potassium chloride, potassium salt (KCl) or E508—so, naming the E number is not obligatory.

Combining it all
Producing a low-sodium product that can exactly replace salt is a complex issue. Taste is key and historically the “salt replacer” produces a bitter flavor that, in turn, needs another ingredient in order to mask this. The more separate ingredients that are added in, the more problems that can occur—for example, dust formation or the individual elements de-mixing or lumping. This is why we believe pre-mixes are not an option for a successful salt replacement product.

The ultimate solution—Suprasel Loso OneGrain
It’s in the name. OneGrain technology turns salt into a free-flowing, easy-to-handle carrier of flavors, nutrients—whatever is required. It stores like salt, it behaves like salt, it can be used exactly like salt. In fact, OneGrain is a genuine like-for-like replacement for salt—in function and taste. There’s no risk it will lump, de-mix or produce dust. It’s a single product that blends and dissolves easily. It’s also label-friendly. Suprasel Loso OneGrain makes sodium reduction in foodstuffs as simple as it can be—leaving manufacturers free to do what they do best, and develop their own product lines.

The proof is in the eating
OneGrain products have been tested in different applications to prove that they work. In these application development projects we have cooperated with different parties. Several of our customers who buy AkzoNobel’s regular food-grade salt have tested OneGrain in close cooperation with its technical service managers.

Take for instance bread. AkzoNobel started with a small bakery, which was very open to the innovation of its products. The baker made the first bread with OneGrain. Once he was satisfied with the baking process and the taste of his breads, the independent Dutch Bakery Center (Nederlands Bakkerij Centrum, NBC) confirmed these results.

Close cooperation between the experts on the end-use products (our customers) and the experts on salt (our technical service managers) has resulted in efficient and effective application development projects and satisfying results! In this kind of cooperation, AkzoNobel concluded OneGrain is quite suitable for different meat and cheese products, as well as ready meals, soups and crisps. Sensory testing by expert panels or consumer panels gave the final proof of satisfying taste.

OneGrain in chicken soup

Sensory evaluation of Suprasel Loso OneGrain A50 in “all natural” instant chicken soup. Full-salt reference soup contains 0.73% NaCl, low-salt reference and Suprasel Loso A50 soup contains 0.37% NaCl (trial setup and evaluation by DSM Food Specialties).

OneGrain in natural crisps

Evaluation of Suprasel Loso OneGrain A50 on basic-style salted crisps using a model seasoning system. Full-salt reference crisps contains 1.6% NaCl, low-salt reference and Suprasel Loso A50 crisps contain 0.8% NaCl (trial setup and evaluation by DSM Food Specialties).

OneGrain technology from AkzoNobel Salt Specialties can achieve up to 50% sodium reduction by combining regular salt, mineral salt and taste-enhancing flavors in single salt grains. The table below shows the ingredient details for Suprasel Loso OneGrain A30 and OneGrain A50:

Application Suprasel Loso OneGrain Proposition Labeling
All-round A30 30%   sodium reduction NaCl,   KCl, natural flavour
All-round A50 50%   sodium reduction NaCl,   KCl, flavour
Bakery B50 50%   sodium reduction             With   Iodine NaCl,   KCl, natural flavour, iodine

AkzoNobel Salt