Potassium chloride is ionically the closest salt molecule to sodium chloride, therefore it gives a better functional result than other salt combinations. Potassium chloride has been a widely used solution for lowering sodium in products, although the material poses its own problems. Foremost of these is, if used as a one-to-one replacement in formulations, the result is often a bitter, metallic aftertaste.
At the IFT Food Expo in June, Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. introduced SodiumSense, an "enhanced potassium chloride" salt replacer. The modified crystal structure improves the taste impact in products such as sauces, cheese, processed meats, prepared meals, salted snacks, soups and baked goods. Application-specific blends of the SodiumSense system allow formulators to reduce sodium by up to 50 percent.
SodiumSense brings to 20 the sodium-reduction products in the Cargill portfolio. "Our FlakeSelect products provide potassium chloride, and potassium chloride and sodium chloride agglomerations, with lower bulk density that work well for topical solutions and seasoning blends, as well as many other applications," says Jesse Van Norden, product line manager for food processing at Cargill.
Cargill also has a number of specialty salts. "Alberger has a unique crystal shape that provides maximum flavor burst and allows manufacturers to achieve sodium reduction while having no change in their ingredient statement," says Van Norden. "Specialty salts can be used to achieve an incremental reduction in sodium."
Nu-Tek Salt LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., has a patented process that provides a better tasting potassium chloride, the company claims. Nu-Tek Potassium Chloride tastes and functions like salt, allows for one-to-one replacement for sodium chloride and facilitates up to 50 percent reduction of sodium content in the finished product. In addition to its potassium chloride solution, Nu-Tek offers blends with sea salt and blends with regular salt.
Nu-Tek patented "single-crystal technology" Advanced Formula Potassium Chloride can reduce sodium levels in popular foods by up to 50 percent and significantly minimizes the bitter taste associated with traditional potassium chloride. It maintains the flavor and functionality of salt, and also allows for one-to-one replacement for sodium chloride. A sample study of hamburger buns showed a 30 percent reduction of sodium can easily be achieved using it in buns and similar baked goods without significantly affecting appearance, flavor or texture.
Dr. Paul Lohmann Inc., Islandia, N.Y., takes a different approach, mixing various mineral salts to come up with lower-sodium salt products. Under its LomaSalt brand, the systems contain less sodium than regular table salt — starting from a reduction of 50 percent, up to a system that allows for a 100 percent sodium-free product. LomaSalt RS 50 Classic contains 20 percent sodium, yet maintains a typical salty taste plus the easy handling of table salt. LomaSalt RS 50 Extra is 50 percent sodium-reduced and particularly suitable for bread, pastries or ready-to-use baking mixtures.
There are several other Lohmann variants, culminating in LomaSalt RS 100, a sodium-free blend composed entirely of mineral salts with a minimized off-taste and with no flavor enhancers.
ICL provides Salona, a natural low-sodium sea salt derived from the Dead Sea in Israel. Sea salts generally reflect the mineral content of the water from which they are derived, according to Barbara Heidolph, principal-marketing technical service for ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis. She points out Salona also has the minerals magnesium and potassium – "essential nutrients known to be deficient in the U.S. diet," adding, "Most sea salts are a high-purity sodium chloride and contribute about 3,900mg of sodium per 100g of salt. Salona has only 170mg of sodium per 100g."
Salona also helps maintain target water activity — another key function that can help formulators. "Not only does Salona allow for reduction in sodium, but the flavor profile also has been shown to provide a better balance and deliver greater saltiness and minimal bitterness compared to other salt replacers. This comes from the presence of the three mineral salts — sodium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride," says Heidolph.
"Sensory evaluations have been conducted with a trained panel to characterize the flavor of reduced-sodium foods where 25 to 50 percent of the sodium chloride has been replaced with Salona. Results indicate minimal bitterness while delivering target saltiness," she reports. "These applications include using Salona as a topical replacement for salt, which is a key use of salt in many snack foods, and is one that can be difficult to replace."
Cranbury, N.J.-based Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, a ConAgra Foods company, has patented Small Particle Salt, which is ground very fine and can be spread out more across the product. "We've seen success in topicals with 15-25 percent salt reduction without noticing the [taste] difference," explains says Joe D'Auria, senior food technologist at Spicetec.