"Cargill has such a wide portfolio of ingredients that we can pretty much tackle any issue that a food manufacturer may be having today," Johnson said. "We can leverage a lot of what our other functional ingredients do to really give that holistic approach—that solution solving—that our customers are looking for."
Pink Himalayan salt has its better-for-you moment
Food manufacturers are turning to pink Himalayan salt for various product applications as consumers look for aesthetically pleasing and better-for-you products, Johnson said. That’s why Cargill will be adding a pink Himalayan salt to its line of salt products, which will include a Pink Himalayan Salt Flour, a fine Pink Himalayan Salt, and Pink Himalayan Salt Extra Coarse Topping.
"We're really excited to be part of that sourcing world to really identify where we can get some of this pink Himalayan salt, bring it into the US, and then work with food manufacturers who really want to take that fad that turned into a trend and now is going into that food manufacturing space,” Johnson said. “We have a couple of different types; we've got a very fine particle, which is really good in that snack application, ... and it's also kind of spilling into the beverage world as well."
Overall, the pink Himalayan salt market is seeing solid growth led by increased interest from consumer. The global pink Himalayan salt market is estimated to be worth $235.39m in 2023 and is expected to grow to $297m by 2028, growing by a 4.76% CAGR between the periods, according to a Mordor Intelligence report.
When it comes to other applications, confectionery companies can use pink Himalayan salt and other specialty salts to “differentiate themselves from the competition,” Johnson said. The ingredient also “has a big play” in the sports nutrition space and can be used in a liquid or powder form, as salt can help with electrolyte replacement, she added.
Part of what has led to the increased demand for pink Himalayan salt is the “healthy halo” around specialty salts and how consumers perceive unique salts as being better for their health, regardless of their actual functional properties, Johnson explained.
“When consumers are looking at salts, if it's basic white salt... they will perceive them differently. And if you're doing something different like putting a pink color to it, or you think that the red and black Hawaiian salts, consumers think that they're really different salts, and they're viewed more healthy, better-for-you and are positively perceived, and they're willing to pay more for it. They think that there's something magical about it.”
Understanding pink Himalayan salt's properties
But while consumers perceive pink and specialty salts like kosher salt as better for their health, pink Himalayan salts only “have minor mineral compositional differences” compared to other salts, Johnson said, noting that she hasn’t “seen too much research on health implications.” Pink Himalayan salts are also less refined and thus have more iron in them, which actually gives the ingredient its hue, she added.
And while pink Himalayan salt is typically no different than regular salt in terms of sodium content, food and beverage companies can experiment with the size of the salt to achieve a reduction in sodium content, Johnson noted.
"From a sodium perspective, it'd be very hard to achieve a sodium reduction using the salts because it's like 97% or greater is going to be sodium chloride. Where you can get differences if you look at like the particle shape or the particle size," Johnson said. "In that snack world where you can potentially get a sodium reduction play and actually a pretty good achievable one [at] 15-20% reduction."