- Cargill launched Purified Sea Salt Flour, an ultra-fine cut that allows the sodium chloride to dissolve faster in liquids; adhere better to food, resulting in less fall-off and less salt waste; and have a more consistent texture, making it undetectable in food, according to a press release sent to Food Dive.
- The fine salt particles also have the functional benefit of increasing the perception of saltiness by raising the rate of dissolution in the mouth. Cargill said this phenomenon could enable sodium reduction in food applications.
- Health advocates have long encouraged consumers to reduce their intake of salt, which is a powerful and common flavor enhancer. In response, ingredients manufacturers are devising alternative solutions that boost a product's taste and minimize its salt content — all of this coming against a backdrop of growing demand for salty snacks.
Excess salt consumption is blamed as a contributor to major health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, calcium loss and stroke, but the mineral is still found in many processed foods. Several food manufacturers, including Mars and Nestlé, have worked to reduce their products' salt content to appeal to consumers seeking healthier choices.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that 90% of children and 89% of adults consume more than their recommended amount of sodium. According to the FDA, the average per capita sodium consumption in 2016 was about 3,400 milligrams — 50% more than recommended. In response to these findings, the agency published draft voluntary targets to limit sodium consumption to 3,000 mg daily by 2018 and 2,300 mg daily by 2026.
These targets, while voluntary, have spurred ingredients manufacturers to look for alternatives to conventional salt. In 2017, Cargill announced it would open a potassium chloride facility in Watkins Glen, New York. Potassium chloride is one of the most commonly used alternatives because its functionality is similar to that of sodium chloride. However, it also has a metallic taste that may need to be masked with other ingredients. Nevertheless, the ingredient has remained popular, and recently it received FDA approval to appear on ingredient labels as "potassium salt” rather than its chemical name, which can be offputting to consumers.
But real salt does more than just make foods taste good. It extends shelf life, controls yeast fermentation, affects the color of baked goods and binds water in meat products. To capture the functional benefits of salt as well as maximize its taste, manufacturers have manipulated the shape of its crystals. This approach is used by Tate & Lyle in its hollow SODA-LO salt microspheres, Cargill in its patented Alberger-brand pyramid-shaped salt and PepsiCo in its Lay’s potato chips.
Cargill’s newest crystal shape is not only capable of keeping the salty flavor while using fewer crystals, but it is also harvested from salt ponds in San Francisco Bay through an environmentally friendly method that uses renewable energy sources, according to the company. This could grab consumers’ attention as it makes Cargill's sea salt flour both better-for-you and better-for-the-environment.
Cargill's timing is good for debuting its ultra-fine sea salt. While salt is used in many applications from soups to spices, it is also present in packaged snacks — a category that has sured during the pandemic. A Mondelez survey found 88% of adults are snacking more or the same than they were before the pandemic, and industry reports indicate salty snacks have grown in popularity.
With consumers continuing to stock up on snacks, demand for sodium reduction solutions that maintain the familiar taste of salt will only continue to grow.