Posted | Thursday 3rd November, 2011
Many of the world’s leading food and drink companies are reflecting consumers’ interest in health, wellness and sustainability by reducing levels of salt, sugar and fat; developing new products designed to deliver health benefits; and by making sustainability assurances, particularly when sourcing raw materials.
Executing these strategies however can prove challenging. Efforts to reduce salt (a key part of many companies’ health and wellbeing strategies) can impact on flavour perception. Marine-derived ingredients however, may present a novel and sustainable solution to the problem.
Salt plays an important role in food; it maximises flavour, helps maintain the product structure and acts as a preservative. However, excessive salt intake can lead to serious health problems like elevated blood pressure. By committing to salt-reduction targets, food companies have had to consider the effect it will have on their products, and in particular on taste perceptions.
One solution is to use an alternative ingredient like seaweed which has a salty taste, but far lower sodium levels. Scientists at Sheffield Hallam University are already exploring the nutritional benefits of seaweed. With only 3.5% sodium (compared to table salt at 39%) and with higher traces of vitamins and minerals, the benefits of using seaweed as a salt replacement are clear. Although seaweed has been widely used in Asian food markets for years, it has only recently begun to make headway in the West.
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