Researchers from North Carolina State University report in the Journal of Dairy Science that small reductions in sodium reductions in the range of 2 to 5% were not noticeable to consumers, but reductions of between 5 and 20% were detected.
When the health benefits of sodium reduction were explained to consumers prior to tasting a reduced-sodium cheese, acceptance of the product improved, report the NCSU researchers led by MaryAnne Drake.
“These results suggest that reducing sodium in cheese sauce, cottage cheese, and milk-based soups may be challenging and that exploration of sodium chloride alternatives in these foods is warranted,” they wrote.
“Appropriate product positioning or advertising may be beneficial to consumer acceptance of lower sodium types of products.”
The sodium in salt is thought to be a contributor to high blood pressure, which in turn has been linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke, the United States’ leading causes of preventable death.
Although Americans consume nearly twice the recommended limit of salt each day, very little of the sodium in the national diet comes from saltshakers; an estimated 70 to 80 percent is added to foods before purchase. As a result, pressure on food manufacturers to slash the salt content of their products has grown.
The NCSU researchers tested consumer acceptability of a range of solutions and food products, including water, cheese sauce, cottage cheese, and milk-based soup with different sodium chloride contents.
Results showed that consumers noticed and identified reductions of less than 20% salt concentration in all products.
“When consumers were informed of sodium reduction and its health benefits before tasting cottage cheese with lower sodium (4 to 12%), overall liking scores for the lower sodium cottage cheeses were not different from higher sodium cottage cheeses,” they noted.
“Small reductions in sodium over time may be one solution to lowering sodium in products without losing consumer loyalty especially for products that have a very simple matrix.
“Further research in understanding the role of individual components of the food matrix in salty taste may help to further clarify salty taste perception,” they concluded.
Source: Journal of Dairy Science
Volume 94, Issue 2, Pages 636-645
“Salty taste in dairy foods: Can we reduce the salt?”
Authors: S.L. Drake, K. Lopetcharat, M.A. Drake