Slash the salt

By Michelle Knott

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Taste, Dsm

Consumers are more concerned with calories and fat than salt
Consumers are more concerned with calories and fat than salt
Yeast extracts are helping food firms slash the salt, reports Michelle Knott

Key points

Yeast extracts are well established ingredients for adding flavour, but they are increasingly attracting attention for their ability to maintain the appeal of savoury foods as firms remove salt and drive down sodium.

While consumers are firmly in the driving seat of most foodie trends, salt and sodium reduction is unusual because it’s driven predominantly by non-governmental organisations and governments. For example, the World Health Organization said in January that adults should consume less than five grams of salt a day to help prevent high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Meanwhile, the scientist-led pressure group Consensus Action on Salt and Health says cutting salt consumption below six grams a day could help prevent high blood pressure, osteoporosis, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, stomach cancer and obesity.

Governments and regulators have been responding. In the UK, for example, the Public Health Responsibility Deal is pressurising firms to take a voluntary approach to salt reduction, while the EU has a common framework for salt reduction and issued its first progress report in April 2012. This was followed in March 2013 with the publication of the UK’s new salt strategy, with a focus on restaurants and takeaway food.

Reduce salt in diets (Return to top)

Dr Susan Jebb, who chairs the Responsibility Deal Food Network, said at the time: “It’s essential we maintain momentum in our efforts to reduce salt in our diet if we are to prevent the many thousands of premature deaths each year from stroke and heart disease linked to eating too much salt.”

In contrast, consumers are more concerned about calories, fat and carbs and many people remain oblivious to the salt in their diet. For example, DSM Food Specialties published research in July showing that around half of urban consumers globally believe they eat less than five grams of salt daily. But the European Commission report revealed last year this is a massive underestimate – in the EU at least.

In fact, Europeans consume anywhere between six and 18 grams of salt daily, which is up to three times higher than recommended. And in the US, research sponsored by Tate and Lyle revealed in April that sodium consumption actually rose by 63 milligrams a day every two years between 2001 and 2010.

Worse still, overt low-salt claims can even damage sales, since people associate reduced sodium with reduced flavour. That’s why there’s been such interest in yeast extracts, which promise a covert way of lowering salt levels without consumers noticing any adverse impact.

Dennis Rijnders, business manager for savoury ingredients yeast extracts at DSM says: “We cannot assume that consumers can make accurate judgments about the amount of salt in foods. Taste, convenience and price are more likely to be given as reasons to purchase foods again. Coupling great taste with health benefits such as reduced sodium is the best way forward in driving repeat purchases.”

Sodium reduction (Return to top)

In other words, he views improved taste as a primary function of ingredients such as DSM’s Multirome yeast extract. “Sodium reduction is an added benefit,​” he says.

DSM says its salt reduction toolbox allows firms to reduce sodium up to 50% without losing mouthfeel or taste. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, as Rijnders explains: “There are a lot of different yeast extracts with different compositions and different effects when it comes to salt reduction. We can provide a number of yeast-extract based solutions by fine tuning the different ingredients.”

Flavour is a complex business, and even though the taste receptors for salt are based on the tongue, smell can play an important part in salt perception by fooling the senses. “If smelly things are associated with salt then people perceive more salt. So if you smell a hint of anchovies food will taste more salty. Our salt experience is multi-dimensional.”

The complexity of the problem is why DSM and other specialists typically include a hefty dose of formulation expertise and technical support in their box of tricks, in addition to supplying ingredients.

“Our main focus is on ingredients from yeast extracts. These enable a quite significant level of salt reduction, saving up to 40% without an adverse impact. If firms need to go even further we can use mineral salts such as potassium chloride, for example, to get up to 50% but we only provide our knowledge in such cases, not the other ingredients.”

The firm’s toolkit includes nucleotide-rich extracts for a lingering salty taste and glutamate-rich extracts for bouillon notes and umami. DSM also boasts the added benefit of a lower environmental impact for its Multirome extracts, thanks to its proprietary enzyme technology that reduces the carbon dioxide generated when making, transporting and using Multirome by 81% compared with basic yeast extracts needed to produce the same flavour intensity.

In addition to a good understanding of the range of yeasts available, the success of yeast-based salt reduction solutions also depends on the targeted end product, according to Stéphanie Solesio, marketing manager for Bio Springer, which is part of the Lesaffre group of firms. Between them, the group makes yeast-based products for health supplements, animal feed and brewing, and for food. “It depends on the initial salt content. It’s easier to obtain a 50% salt reduction when the initial product is really salty, because the low salt one will seem better to the consumer. It also depends on the flavour: a smoked meat flavour always seems more ‘salty’ to the consumer, so it is easier to make a bigger salt reduction on ‘bacon/smoked meat’ flavoured products.”

Bio Springer also offers a range of yeast extracts, including glutathione-rich extracts to deliver a kokumi (heartiness) flavour and nucleotide-rich versions to provide umami. Its products are derived from bakers’ and brewers’ yeasts, according to Solesio: “This production flexibility enables Bio Springer to offer the widest yeast product range with various flavour profiles to fit in many applications.”

Product target (Return to top)

The type of yeast ingredient will also affect the suitability of products in different applications, because it affects technical performance. For example, solubility is a factor, with pure yeast extracts (where the cell walls are removed) typically being 100% soluble, dried yeast being 30% soluble and autolysed yeast (which includes the remains of the cell walls after partial hydrolysis) being 50% soluble, according to Solesio.

Other firms that have spotted the market potential for yeast include Sensient Bio-Ingredients, which markets products under the Sensasalt umbrella, and Synergy, which markets yeast extracts from a dairy source as well as brewers’ yeast. Synergy is a subsidiary of dairy firm Carbery.

They could all be on to a winner, according to a report on the sodium reduction market from MarketsandMarkets in July. This forecasts a CAGR of 11% globally up to 2018, when it will top $1bn. The analyst predicts that yeast extracts, which now rank second in the market behind mineral salts, could take a major slice of the pie, thanks to their “multi-functional abilities”.

Related topics: Cultures, enzymes, yeast

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