Low sugar, low salt doesn’t have to equal low taste

By Deirdre Piggott

While it’s easy to admit that cutting back on sugar and salt is a good dietary goal, it’s more of a struggle to adjust to cutting those two particular ingredients out of our diet. Why? Because they make food and beverages taste good.

Still, we know change is needed. The low-fat and nonfat craze of the 1980s and 1990s turned people off to fat, but it was only in recent years that sugar was also exposed as a major dietary culprit leading to obesity, adult-onset diabetes and other health problems.

Happily, much has been accomplished in food and beverage R&D to create food and beverages that are low in both salt and sugar and still pleasurable to eat and drink. Result? Consumers don’t have to sacrifice taste for a healthier diet.

There are challenges:

Sugar. On the sweetener side, high-intensity sweeteners have come on the market. Both natural and artificial, they do the job of sugar but also can bring bitter, or metallic, off notes as well as a sweetness that lingers overlong.

Salt. When salt is removed, it is replaced with alternatives such as potassium chloride, which can bring metallic off notes along with a salty taste.

Obviously, development around flavor enhancements with no downside was needed. The development process to achieve these results has become, understandably, complicated. Here’s a sample of how it works:

  • Develop the base formula based on desired macro- and micro-nutrient levels.
  • Choose a flavor that works with that base — for a sports drink, a fruit or fruit combination will add a tart kick and also mask metallic notes, for example.
  • Identify the notes that are still off and adjust the formula to eliminate those.
  • Balance the system, during which time it may be discovered that adjusting to cover up an off note is also suppressing a good one and thus slowing the desired flavor delivery.

Sensient creates flavors that are designed for protein shakes and a wide variety of other food and beverages. Let us provide an outstanding flavor, flavor combination, or series of flavors for your products.