Reducing salt, a matter of taste

Published: 31-01-2014

Modern society is trying to turn the tide against cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Governments, in response to scientific discoveries, are stimulating consumers to look not only to new medicines to cure their illnesses, but also to prevent these illnesses in the first place through a healthier lifestyle based on physical exercise and a balanced and healthy diet.

A key challenge posed to the food industry by governments and medical professionals is to reduce the levels of salt (sodium, to be more precise) in processed food products to support consumers in achieving a healthy diet. Salt is the world’s most established food additive, but is now considered an ingredient that causes health problems. In our modern societies, 75-80% of our salt intake results from our diet of processed food; 10% we add ourselves with the salt shaker; and 10% is naturally present in fruits, vegetables and meat.

Reducing salt is a key challenge since it is highly valued all over the world for its taste contribution, its taste enhancement functionality, and its effects on shelf life, texture, and processing. Low salt products are quickly associated by consumers with bland-tasting products, which, despite good intentions, results in avoidance of these products by consumers.

Yeast extracts are a proven tool in helping food producers achieve sodium reduction by repairing and improving the taste of the product to a level at which consumers will not notice the lower sodium or the addition of alternative mineral salts. The taste improvement functionality of yeast extract is the result of the natural presence in yeast of the same components that create the 5th taste, Umami[1], and is known for its effect in boosting other flavors.

Sodium reductions of up to 40% using only yeast extracts, and up to 50% in combination with other mineral salts, can make a big difference in cutting the average salt intake of the global population from an average of 10-12 grams a day to the desired level of less than 6 grams a day!

Because of their natural flavor-enhancing capabilities, yeast extracts have already been used for more than 50 years in a broad range of products that require a savory taste profile, such as bouillon cubes, soups, sauces, chips, sausages and ready-to-eat meals. The same natural flavor-enhancing components that are present in yeast extracts are, for example, also found in parmesan cheese, ripe tomatoes and shiitake and portobello mushrooms. Yeast extracts help to create a great taste experience in a natural, reliable and convenient way.

Application test: Reduced sodium chicken bouillon

To demonstrate the impact of yeast extracts, DSM conducted an extensive sensory evaluation on several reduced sodium formulations of a chicken bouillon.

DSM Food Specialties has a toolbox for sodium reduction that consists of:

• Maxarome®[2] / Maxarite™[3] range: a range of yeast extracts with different levels of naturally occurring, taste-enhancing properties that boost the salt still present in the end application.

• Gistex®[4] HUM LS further enhances the fullness and mouthfeel in a product, and, together with Maxarome yeast extracts, form the most effective pure yeast extract sodium reduction solution.

DSM tested a combination of the most widely used ingredient solutions for sodium reduction to date, which is a combination of a natural taste-enhancing yeast extract with potassium chloride. Potassium chloride is widely used by food manufacturers to replace sodium chloride since it is closest in terms of saltiness.

Using just yeast extracts and depending on the application, reductions in sodium in the range of 25 – 40% are achievable. Food producers can achieve further sodium reduction if they combine yeast extract and potassium chloride.

Potassium chloride has a different taste profile than sodium chloride and also contributes sweetness and bitterness, or metallicness. When the concentration of potassium chloride increases, the taste profile moves from sweetness, to bitterness (metallic), and then finally to saltiness. This mixed taste profile prevents potassium chloride from being used as an effective all-around salt replacer.

As a consumer, but also as a manufacturer, we want to have the signature taste of the product, just like we are used to.

Gistex, Maxarome and Maxarite yeast extracts can repress these negative bitter notes from potassium chloride, by adding mouthfeel, boosting saltiness and rounding off the flavor profile. Yeast extract and potassium chloride have proven to be a very effective combination, allowing sodium reduction of up to 50% while maintaining the characteristic taste of the product.

Given their effectiveness as salt reducers, DSM Food Specialties sees its yeast extracts being used outside the traditional savory and culinary markets and facilitating sodium reduction in applications such as bread, processed meat, breakfast cereals, cookies, and processed cheeses.

The products in DSM Food Specialties’ sodium reduction toolbox are the result of an ongoing research and development program within the DSM Biotechnology Centre/Food Innovation Centre. This program focuses on finding new (combinations of) ingredients with the desired sensory effect of keeping the taste of the end product intact. One of the program’s findings is that based on in-house development of time-resolved, sensory modulation, the company was able to prove that its high nucleotide yeast extracts have a lingering effect on consumers’ salt perceptions.

DSM Food Specialties also works closely on its sodium reduction program with the Dutch Top Institute for Food and Nutrition, independent research institutes like TNO and NIZO, and in co-development projects with customers.

Yeast and yeast extracts, because of their long history of safe use, taste-enhancing capabilities, and natural origin, are welcome ingredients in many foods and beverages today and will be in the future!

DSM Food Specialties is a leading global supplier of specialty ingredients to the food and beverage industry. Its products contribute to the success of the world’s favorite food brands – in savory, dairy, baking, fruit juice, beer, and wine. With 1,400 employees active in 25 locations worldwide, DSM Food Specialties is a truly global player. The company is part of Royal DSM N.V., a Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company. DSM’s products and services are used globally in a wide range of markets and applications, supporting a healthier, more sustainable and more enjoyable way of life. The company has annual net sales of about €8 billion and employs some 22,700 people, worldwide.

Contact information:
Mr. Dennis Rijnders
Product Manager Yeast Extracts
DSM Food Specialties B.V.
T. +31-15-2792452

[1] Umami was discovered by the researcher Kikunae Ikeda from the Tokyo University in 1908 and has in the meantime become generally recognized as the fifth taste next to sweet, salt, bitter and sour.
[2] Maxarome® is a registered trademark of Royal DSM N.V.
[3] Maxarite™ is a trademark of Royal DSM N.V.
[4] Gistex® is a registered trademark of Royal DSM N.V.