Will umami and kokumi replace Americans’ love for salt and saltier as their seasoning of choice? Perhaps not tomorrow, but some manufacturers are focusing on the novel (to most Americans, anyway) flavors to give foods a kick as they reduce sodium levels, according to Food Business News.
The average American's sodium intake — about 3,400 mg per day — is nearly 50 percent higher than most experts recommend, according to the FDA. In June, the agency released draft targets to reduce sodium consumption — to 3,000 mg per day by 2018, and to 2,300 mg per day by 2016.
Manufacturers are experimenting with ingredients like yeast, which can add a savory umami flavor, notes Fooddive.com. Kevin McDermott, vice president and director of sales for Savoury Systems International, told Food Business News that a small amount of yeast extracts can provide an umami taste to take the place of salt. The flavor comes from the glutamic acid in the yeast. The market for yeast extracts — driven largely by the desire for healthy flavor alternatives — is expected to grow 7.5 percent in the U.S. over the next eight years, according to a report from Global Market Insights.
Food companies are also working with ingredients like amino acids that add kokumi, another savory Japanese flavor, or mouthfeel, that has been described as “hearty” and “rich.”
You don’t need to use much yeast or aminos to get strong flavors, McDermott said. “At the same time, they work great. Sodium ions create salty taste perception. So once they are removed, that exact taste perception is gone. However, amino acids add umami and kokumi flavor perception back onto the tongue, hitting the same neurological pathway that sodium had.” The yeast extracts allow consumers to enjoy the taste experience without feeling the need to add more salt, he said.