Bakery manufacturers across the globe are working on reducing the sodium content of baked goods, and there are plenty of options out there including recrystallized salts and potassium-based alternatives.
However, on-pack communication on these efforts differs across the globe, with US manufacturers discussing 'sodium' reduction and European firms communicating more on 'salt' - the two of which are not the same.
Managing director of The Low Sodium Sea Salt Company Leslie Wilson said that communicating sodium reduction efforts to consumers is a huge challenge, worsened by confusion over these two terms, particularly in the UK where both are used.
"Consumers don’t realize the difference between salt and sodium levels. I think it’s very difficult for consumers to get a grasp on that,” Wilson told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“It’s terribly difficult to put technical and medical messages across," he said.
Combined with how busy consumers are and considering there are many that also don't care, Wilson said that industry faces a huge challenge.
Industry, government and health professionals must work harder on improving this level of understanding among consumers, he added.
On-pack to on-product communication
The Low Sodium Sea Salt Company has two salt alternatives under its Solo brand – a 60% reduced sodium sea salt fortified with potassium and magnesium and a 30% reduced sodium sea salt fortified with iodine.
The company has some ideas on the drawing board to better enable bakers to communicate sodium reduction efforts when using these alternatives, Wilson said.
The plans are to use the company’s heart-shaped logo and branding on edible rice paper that manufacturers can bake onto the bread, he said. “We’re thinking of approaching artisanal bakers with that idea because we realize the difficulties of communicating the sodium reduction message to consumers.”
Eventually, the hope is that the symbol would become recognized among consumers as an indication of reduced sodium, he said. “In so far as sodium reduction goes, it’s a new approach to communicating.”
Driven by healthier lifestyles
“Across Europe, and worldwide, consumers are looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle and sodium reduction is one part that is of paramount importance,” Wilson said.
Bakers, he said, are under pressure to slash salt because bread remains a top contributor to sodium in the diet.
Data from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that for adults aged 19 to 64 years, white bread contributes 10% of the sodium to their diets.
The high level of sodium contribution to diets is due to the number of eating occasions, Wilson said, rather than an overly high salt content of the product. “Sodium levels in bread need to be put into perspective. They can be totally distorting.”
“Many of the big brands have been working on reducing levels over time. But at the end of the day, you can only take salt out to a certain degree before impacting the structure and taste. Flavor is cited by bakers as the biggest problem,” he said.