Sodium reduction of more than 30% while retaining great taste is possible. This is the first outcome of a large project by Vion Food Group and FrieslandCampina in collaboration with NIZO food research and co-funded by the Dutch Government (FND). The project, called Sodium Minus, has been running since 2008 and already products with at least 30% salt reduction are available on the European market. Innovative solutions for both cheese and meat were found by creating natural flavor enhancers and aromas that deliver the same taste sensation.
Organizations such as the World Health Organization advocate a decrease of sodium consumption by at least 30%. To date, progress has been gradual, and based largely on industry-wide strategies in which the salt content is reduced every year by a few percent. However, to achieve such a large reduction of salt levels in consumer products such as bacon, sausages and cheese requires a totally different approach to be adopted.
In the Sodium Minus project new technologies were developed to produce a salt reduction system based on salt replacers, masking agents, flavor enhancers and top notes (specific aromas that prompt association with saltiness). All aspects are relevant, but as a clean label approach was considered important for the food companies, the focus was on finding new solutions based on natural taste and aroma compounds.
In the course of the project, aromas that create a perception of saltiness were identified and incorporated in meat and cheese products, allowing a significant salt reduction while retaining great taste and bite.
Janny van Gijssel of NIZO food research and overall manager of the Sodium Minus project is very happy with the results so far. “It is fun to discover that cheese meets meat in test systems. I find it very rewarding to work towards such a clear health benefit for consumers and that in such a short time the results of our joint work can be found in the supermarket.”
“The work will not stop here,” says Ronald Klont, head of R&D at Vion. “Further research is necessary to optimize the new technologies and to implement them in a second and third range of meat products with even lower sodium content. This project has been very successful and will have a really positive impact on people’s health. Over the past two years we have already taken more than 800 tones of sodium chloride out of the gammon and bacon for the UK market.”
“Cheese remains tasty,” says Jo Penders, Project Manager at FrieslandCampina and winner of the golden Cheese Taster 2010. “We created tools to control taste producing cultures, such that the salt perception is enhanced dramatically in a natural way. This is already being applied in the low salt and low fat Milner cheese. This key technology will enable further progress in reducing the salt content in cheese.”