Dispatches from the 6th Annual Food Technology & Innovation Forum, 2012, Chicago

Nu-Tek Salt: 90% of our customers are reducing sodium by stealth

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Musselman: 'The good thing about KCl compared with other approaches is that it is cheap and it works'
Musselman: 'The good thing about KCl compared with other approaches is that it is cheap and it works'

Related tags: Sodium chloride, Potassium, Salt

Nine out of 10 customers using potassium-chloride-based salt replacers from Nu-Tek Salt are now reducing sodium by stealth to avoid antagonizing shoppers, says the Minnesota-based firm.

Nu-Tek senior director of sales John Musselman was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Food Technology & Innovation Forum in Chicago last week, where the issue of whether sodium reduction was an active selling point for consumers was a big talking point.  

While consumers often tell market researchers they would like to see more reduced sodium products in stores, the reality is that they do not always buy them, which explains why many manufacturers are now reducing sodium by stealth, said Musselman.

“I’d say that nine out of 10 of our customers are now reducing sodium by stealth. People have seen some big names get their fingers burned.”

We have found a way to suppress the bitterness of KCl

Nu-Tek has developed a patent-pending technology which it claims can produce potassium-chloride-based salt replacers without a metallic aftertaste, overcoming the major barrier to KCl for product developers, said Musselman.

“We have found a way to suppress the bitterness via a wet chemistry process using rice flour or maltodextrin. There are no taste masking agents, you can just list it as potassium chloride and rice flour on the label.”

The challenge, however, is getting food manufacturers to try Nu-Tek products and see that things have changed dramatically since they tested the first generation of KCL-based salt replacers, said Musselman.

“A lot of companies have negative feelings about potassium chloride because they tested the first generation of KCl-based salt replacers and they didn’t like them. But if we can just get them to try our products, they are convinced.”

While there is now a lot of competition in the sodium reduction ingredients market, potassium chloride is a cost effective solution that enables firms to address technical and sensory challenges, he said.

“The good thing about KCl compared with other approaches is that it is cheap and it works, particularly where you need salt for its functional and technical abilities - for example in meat, cheese and bakery applications.”

Reformulation drivers

While some firms are putting sodium reduction work off until their hands are forced by the FDA, many others are keen to stay ahead of the game so that if or when the FDA takes action, they are ready, he said.

“There are always going to be companies that are not closely scrutinized by the press that are not going to do anything until they have a gun to their head, but there are just as many companies that just want to get it done now.”

Click here​ to read the results of FoodNavigator-USA’s poll on whether communicating reformulation efforts is a sales driver.

Click here​ for a round-up on the latest developments in sodium reduction.   

Click here​ to read about Tate & Lyle’s novel approach to sodium reduction.

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