Nottingham firm Eminate has patented a process that re-engineers salt to create free-flowing, microscopic hollow balls. These deliver an intense taste, and (since they are still sodium chloride) can be listed as ‘salt’ on food labels, thus allowing manufacturers to cut salt by more than 50%.
The crystals, which bear the B2B brand name Soda-Lo, are only 5-10 microns in size, a fraction of the size of standard salt crystals at circa. 200-500 microns.
The company sent its first 10-tonne shipment of Soda-Lo to the US in February and (via Wisconsin distributor Main Street Ingredients) expects products containing it to hit retail shelves there later this year.
Asked about progress, Soda-Lo commercial manager Kevin Wilson said: “We’re still undertaking lots of trials in North America and Canada.” He said Canadian interest lay mainly on the bread side, driven by the nation’s government-led strategy to encourage food firms to cut salt.
Results have been especially impressive with bread thus far, enabling plant bakers to cut salt significantly with no detriment to volume, texture or weight, while the tiny crystals aid freshness by cross-linking gluten and locking in moisture.
However, trials have also been conducted using the product with cheese, vegetarian sausages, crisps, sauces, soups, breakfast cereals, muffins, pizza bases, rice crispie-style snacks and bakery premixes.
Although Wilson did not identify the next market sector where he believed Soda-Lo could make inroads, he said that trials on products such as cheese, which involve extensive microbiological work, took time.
Nonetheless, he said Eminate had also secured its first European customer (in Greece) within the last month, which would use the product in cheese and bakery applications, and added that the firm had had “many enquiries from Israel due to the demand for Kosher-certified food”.
“The advantage is that Soda-Lo is a clean-label product, based on sea salt and it's also kosher,” Wilson said.
“People don’t want to change packaging, and they don’t want to use other flavour enhancers based on potassium chloride that require masking agents to disguise the metallic taste that gives.”
Although Soda-Lo is expensive by comparison with standard salt, and comparable in price with salt alternatives (these include yeast extracts or potassium chloride based flavour enhancers) Wilson said it allowed food manufacturers to retain sodium chloride but cut levels significantly.