General Mills files patent to cut salt and fat in dough

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills has incorporated salt flavoring into fat particles - creating 'taste spikes' in saltiness, enabling less to be used in baked dough products
General Mills has incorporated salt flavoring into fat particles - creating 'taste spikes' in saltiness, enabling less to be used in baked dough products

Related tags Nutrition Saturated fat Cooking General mills

General Mills has filed a patent for salt-flavored fat particles that enable cost effective sodium reduction and fat replacement in baked dough products.

A growing desire from consumers, regulators and food companies to reduce the sodium content in foods, as well as concerns around “another health-sensitive ingredient”​ – fat, prompted the development, General Mills said in its international patent filing​.

The company has developed shortening chips (fat particles) that incorporate salt flavoring – a design that General Mills said enables overall salt flavoring to be reduced by around 50%.

The fat particles can be used to reduce sodium and lower saturated and trans fats in any baked dough product including pie crusts, sweet rolls and cookies.  

General Mills said the shortening chips were a novel, cost effective and convenient method for fat and sodium reduction.

“In preparing dough products, especially on a commercial scale, companies look for ingredients that can be conveniently handled and processed. Shortening chips (particles, flakes etc.) fit this bill nicely because they take the form of solid particles that can be conveniently handled, stored, and processed,”​ it wrote.

How does it work? Salt in the fat particles create taste ‘spikes’

The shortening chips are made from fat, water and contain salt as a flavoring. The inclusion of salt in the fat particles means the salt is unevenly distributed in the dough resulting in relatively high concentrations of saltiness in certain parts, General Mills explained.

“Advantageously, the locally increased flavorant salt concentrations can allow for a lower total salt content of the food product (…) while maintaining a salt flavor level that is similar to an otherwise similar baked dough product having a higher concentration of flavorant salt that is more evenly distributed throughout the baked dough product.”

Placing the salt at a high local concentration of fat within the dough can also improve the taste perception of salt, General Mills added.

This is a novel method for the bakery industry, it said, particularly as fat – a hydrophobic compound – has always been considered as a natural barrier preventing salt from dissolving in water or saliva, therefore impacting saltiness perception.

“It is surprising that (…) delivering salt in fat particles can enhance saltiness sensation in a final cooked food product, rather than masking saltiness. This, without being bound by any theory, may be due to a combination of surface salt coating, and controlled high local salt concentration in the bulk of the food product, simultaneously delivered to a consumer in a unique manner by the flavorant salt-containing fat particles, upon cooking and melting,”​ General Mills wrote.

The salt is distributed throughout the product when the fat particles melt during baking. General Mills said these salt-containing fat particles could be used alongside other salt reduction methods.

Healthier fats to transport lower sodium levels

The fat particles can include one or more fat ingredient, enabling bakers to use healthier alternatives - such as processed base oils - which holds appeal amid a widespread trend to use healthier fats, General Mills said.

“Alternative fat compositions that are low in saturated and trans fatty acids are very desirable, especially if they can also be used in low sodium products.”

In addition to the salt-flavored fat particles, manufacturers can also add additional fat particles from any source such as vegetable, dairy and marine to the formulation as well as low amounts of emulsifiers, hydrocolloids or preservatives.

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