Over 30% salt reduction achieved in cheese and meat products with great taste

A consortium of dairy company FrieslandCampina, VION Food group and NIZO food research have developed a new approach for salt reduction in consumer products. As a result of this project, new products with over largely reduced sodium levels became available on the European market. FrieslandCampina has introduced Milner cheese with great taste and bite and 40% less salt and since 2008 VION Food group has taken more than 800 tonnes of sodium chloride out of gammon and bacon for the UK market.

Sodium reduction of more than 30% while retaining great taste is possible. This is a primary outcome of a large project by FrieslandCampina and VION Food Group in collaboration with NIZO food research and co-funded by the Dutch Government (Food and Nutrition Delta). The project, called Sodium Minus, has resulted in the development of innovative strategies for lowering salt content of cheese and meat. The basic approach was by creating natural flavour enhancers and aromas that deliver an equivalent (salty) taste sensation in cheese and meat. A main challenge was to reduce NaCl in e.g. cheese without negatively affecting desired sensory attributes, texture and safety.

Organisations such as the World Health Organisation advocate a decrease of sodium consumption by at least 30%. To date, progress has been gradual, and based largely on industry-wide strategies in which the salt content is reduced every year by a few percent. However, to achieve a large reduction of salt levels in consumer products such as bacon, sausages and cheese requires alternative innovative approaches have to be adopted.

In the course of the Sodium Minus project, natural taste and aroma compounds that create a perception of saltiness were identified and incorporated in meat and cheese products, allowing a significant salt reduction while retaining great taste and bite. In cheese focus was on formation of required compounds during ripening and this truly is a clean label approach.
The scientists at NIZO food research and the R&D managers FrieslandCampina and VION are very happy with the results achieved: “It is fun to discover that cheese meets meat in test systems. We find it very rewarding to work towards such a clear health benefit for consumers and that in such a short time the results of our joint work can be found in the supermarket.”

“The work will not stop here,” says Ronald Klont, head of R&D at VION. “ Further research is necessary to optimize the new technologies and to implement them in a second and third range of meat products with even lower sodium content. This project has been very successful and will have a really positive impact on people’s health. Over the past two years we have already taken more than 800 tonnes of sodium chloride out of the gammon and bacon for the UK market.”
“Cheese remains tasty,” says Jo Penders, Project Manager at and winner of the golden Cheese Taster 2010. “We created tools to control taste producing cultures, such that the salt perception is enhanced dramatically in a natural way. This is now being applied in the low salt and low fat Milner cheese. This key technology will enable further progress in reducing the salt content in cheese.”

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