Food Valley Society
Get connected with the members of Food Valley NL

Mushrooms boost umami to cut salt

Published: 23-05-2017, | Member: Scelta Mushrooms

Approaches to salt reduction often focus on ingredients that mimic saltiness, but umami-based ingredients can enhance flavour in a similar way.


Dutch company Scelta Mushrooms is a major supplier of mushroom products, which are naturally rich in umami, one of our five basic tastes alongside salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Umami is often described as a savoury, hearty flavour, and food manufacturers increasingly are looking to enhance savoury flavours in an effort to get away from the more negative “reduced salt” message.

“From a marketing perspective, it’s very important to not shine the light on less salt, or reduced salt, because then the consumer thinks there is less taste,” said Rico Lansbergen, the company’s Sales Manager.

The way in which we perceive umami and how it works with other flavours is still poorly understood, but emerging evidence suggests it enhances our perception of saltiness. This could be of great interest to the food industry, which has come under increasing pressure to cut salt to help meet public health recommendations.

Scelta describes its Taste Accelerator line of extracts as salt enhancers, rather than salt replacers, and, compared to widely used substitutes such as potassium chloride, they benefit from a neutral flavour.

The ingredients are made from waste stream products, including mushroom stems, blanching water, and mushrooms that are considered visually unappealing. It says the extracts can reduce salt by up to 50% in a wide range of applications, including soups and sauces, seasonings for meat and snacks, and bakery products.

“It works like a yeast extract, but our product is made from 100% mushrooms so is therefore natural and clean label,” explained Sophie Tullemans, Technical Sales Support.

Traditionally, many food companies have looked to products like MSG, I+G and AYE to enhance flavour, but these have become less appealing to manufacturers as consumers increasingly demand more natural ingredients. Available as a spray-dried powder or as a liquid concentrate, the Taste Accelerator ingredient would be labelled as ‘mushroom extract’ or ‘natural flavour’ on-pack.

In bakery products, however, replacing salt involves challenges beyond flavour, as salt has important functional roles, including in preservation and texture. For these applications, the extract is combined with calcium chloride, to help bakers retain some of the functional properties of salt.

Gradually, more and more salt-reduced products are appearing on supermarket shelves, but the hospitality sector still presents specific challenges. While institutions like care homes, schools and hospitals are making strides with salt reduction, Lansbergen said hotels and restaurants were often lagging behind.

“They are always looking for the best taste,” he said. “But they know because of public opinion they have to do something about salt.”

One approach is to tap into restaurants’ interest in umami flavour, rather than salt reduction itself, and the company supplies its extract in a small 1kg bucket with this market in mind.

“There is a big responsibility for us, as well as retailers and brand manufacturers, to take them by the hand and help them to make the right choice.”

Scelta Mushrooms


Food Valley Summit: Reformulation Salt Reduction

Innovation insights and new developments. Sharing opportunities, challenges and market experiences. Meet Scelta Mushrooms during the Food Valley Summit on 8 June 2017 in the Netherlands. More information