Sodium reduction was high on every baker’s agenda, particularly with talk of labeling reforms and potential voluntary guidelines, said Charlie Moon the vice president of technical service at Flowers Foods.
But, rather than considering sodium replacements like potassium chloride, sea salt, algae or restructured crystals, bakers should first look at how far they can slash salt content, he told attendees at the AACCI’s 2014 annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.
“Why don’t you just try removing some of the salt? That’s the easiest thing – it’s the low-hanging fruit,” he said.
Up to 25% sodium reductions
Typically, bakers could reduce the salt content in bread down to 1-1.5% - compared to standard levels of 2.75% without any taste or functionality impact, he explained.
“That’s what we did with some products we were reformulating anyway.”
Flowers Foods had decided to repackage one of its lines to remove ‘natural’ from its packaging and decided to slash the salt content at the same time, he explained.
Bakers could achieve anything up to a 25% reduction in overall sodium content just by removing salt, he said. Obviously this was easier in complex baked goods where flavors masked any reduction, compared to plain white bread, he added.
In addition, they could remove other sodium-containing ingredients commonly used in bakery products, such as sodium stearate and citrate, and yeast and dried egg white, he said.
Does the stealth approach work?
Asked if bakery manufacturers should remove the salt without communicating it to consumers, he told BakeryandSnacks.com: “You might not want to admit to the fact you’ve changed your formula, particularly if you have an iconic brand. Let’s take Wonder or Nature’s Own – you might not want to claim the best-selling bread in the country has reduced sodium.”
Calling out reduced sodium on pack tended to have negative connotations for consumers, he said. “It’s one of those things – if you remove something consumers think ‘it’s probably bad for me, it probably doesn’t taste right’.”
Flowers Foods, for example, had taken both a messaging and stealth approach over the years, he said. Back in the 1990s, Flowers launched a ‘reduced-sodium’ bread in Florida as a limited edition product, he said, but despite strong marketing and retail efforts “it didn’t last very long”.
While consumers claimed they wanted lower sodium products, they didn’t tend to put money to that in store, he said.