Kikkoman natural flavor enhancer may cut sodium levels in Frankfurters

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Kikkoman natural flavor enhancer may cut sodium levels in Frankfurters

Related tags Salt

A modified form of soy sauce may act as a natural flavor enhancer in frankfurters and help food formulators reduce sodium levels by 20% without affecting taste, says a new study from Kikkoman.

Sodium reduction levels could be extended to 35% if potassium chloride was also included in the frankfurter mix, researchers from University of Wisconsin and Kikkoman USA report in the peer-review journal Meat Science​.

“All research phases indicated that it is possible to successfully utilize [natural flavor enhancer (NFE)] for replacing a portion of NaCl in frankfurters,”​ they wrote.

“This research also demonstrated that NFE possesses the ability to increase sensory attributes such as overall liking, salty taste perception, and overall taste intensity suggesting a flavor and salt-enhancing effect.”

All-natural & made in the USA

The study was funded by Kikkoman USA R&D Laboratory, Inc. Joe Leslie, national industrial sales manager at Kikkoman Sales USA told FoodNavigator-USA that the product has been developed in response to requests from their customers for a low-flavored soy sauce to provide a flavor boosting Umami effect in non-Asian  applications.

"After several years of testing different fermentation variables, we were able to develop a product that is made the same way as soy sauce, but that has different characteristics,"​ explained Leslie. "Our goal with this project was to eliminate the soy sauce flavor and maximize the flavor boosting amino  acids. Kikkoman NFE products have an amino acid profile very different than our soy sauce, and have a very strong Umami effect. They also have a better salt enhancing effect, even though they are lower in salt.
"We have done independent testing on several food products, and have seen 33-50% sodium reduction, without any loss of flavor pleasantness, flavor intensity or salty taste."

Kikkoman has also tested NFE in bread products, sauces, soups, salad dressings, and other food applications, he said.

"The best news is that our NFE products are all-natural, made in the USA, and very low in cost,"​ added Leslie. 


The new study serves as a proof of concept for the ingredient in frankfurters. Results of the tests showed that 50% of the NaCl in frankfurters could be replaced with NFE, and that, since the soy sauce derived ingredient did contain some salt, this led to a 20% reduction in sodium chloride “without adverse effects on quality or sensory attributes”​.

Additional testing showed that further reductions in sodium levels could be achieved by incorporating potassium chloride in place of some of the salt.

“Additional studies are required to better determine the best combinations of sodium reduction, NFE usage, and KCl inclusion to provide a reduced sodium frankfurter with desirable sensory and quality attributes,”​ said the researchers.

“Furthermore, additional experimentation should be conducted to include a wider subset of processed meat products, particularly in those products in which NaCl is used more for flavor and less for functionality.”


Salt is of course vital and is necessary for the body to function, but the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, vastly exceeds recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day to control blood pressure levels and reduce hypertension prevalence and related health risks in populations.

And with 80 per cent of salt intake coming from processed foods, many countries have initiated salt reduction program, with many holding up the UK’s Food Standards Agency as the torch bearer for national initiatives.

The benefits of a salt global salt reduction strategy were given blinding clarity by a meta-analysis published in The Lancet Chronic Diseases Series​ in 2007, which concluded that reducing salt intake around the world by 15% could prevent almost nine million deaths between 2006 and 2015.

The topic remains controversial, however, with a prestigious Cochrane review concluding that salt reduction did not impact cardiovascular disease risk. However, this was subsequently slammed in a re-analysis of the same data in The Lancet​, with the authors of this paper stating that salt reduction does provide a significant reduction in cardiovascular events.

Regardless of this ongoing debate, public health policy in many continues to advocate salt reduction, and the food industry continues to explore ways of reducing the salt content of its products without detrimentally affecting consumer liking.

Source: Meat Science
Volume 91, Issue 2, Pages 185–194, doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2012.01.018
“Reducing sodium levels in frankfurters using a natural flavor enhancer”
Authors: Megan M. McGough, T. Sato, S.A. Rankin, J.J. Sindelar

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