Adding salty smells to food products could help industry reduce sodium levels by up to 25% without affecting the overall taste profile, say researchers.
Suggestions that adding salty aromas to foods can aid in sodium reduction are not new, with several previous studies suggesting that adding a salty smell to food products could help with consumer acceptance of reduced salt products.
However, research into how such salty smells affect perceptions in foods that have different taste profiles – for example, sour or bitter tastes – is currently lacking, according to researchers from the University of Burgundy, France.
“Because food usually elicits several tastes that could interact at a perceptual level, we evaluated whether an odour-induced saltiness enhancement could be observed in salty-sour solutions containing potassium and sodium salts along with citric acid,” explain the researchers.
Writing in Food Quality and Preference , the team investigate whether increasing the salty smells of foods acts to enhance the apparent saltiness of food products with more complex tastes.
Led by Dr Thierry Thomas-Danguin, the researchers reveal that ’salty’ odours enhance the perceived saltiness of potassium chloride in foods more than sodium chloride.
The team also suggests that odour-induced saltiness enhancement (OISE) is most efficient in salty-sour solutions, adding that such enhancements “can compensate for a reduction in sodium content of more than 25%.”
“These results are especially relevant while using OISE as a sensory compensation strategy in low-salt food,” they reveal, adding that the findings could help manufacturers to achieve further reductions in salt – therefore allowing them to follow recommendations of public health authorities “while maintaining a good acceptability of food products for consumers.”
The researchers first confirmed previous findings that odours can enhance taste salty taste perceptions, before revealing that such modifications could be of benefit in systems that contained both sodium and potassium salts, and had more complex taste profiles.
“Considering that a combination of several strategies would be advantageous to compensate for a reduction in sodium content and that potassium chloride is the closest salt substitute used in combination with sodium chloride, we also examined the ability of odour to enhance the saltiness of solutions containing mixtures of sodium and potassium salts.”
“Taken together, the results reported here confirmed that cross-modal odour-taste interactions could be a way to counterbalance the decrease in perceived saltiness in foods with reduced sodium content,” said the researchers.
Moreover, the study data suggests such strategy could be combined with other strategies, such as sodium replacement by potassium – to reduce the total amount of both salts needed and therefore overcome issues of undesirable off-notes from potassium replacement, suggested the authors.
Source: Food Quality and Preference
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.07.004
“Enhancing salty taste through odour-taste-taste interactions: Influence of odour intensity and salty tastants’ nature”
Authors: Nizar Nasri, Chantal Septier, Noëlle Beno, Christian Salles, Thierry Thomas-Danguin