Once you pop, you can’t stop.
Bet you can’t eat just one.
There’s a reason why the famous taglines of Pringles and Lays potato chips imply their snacks are irresistible. The love of salty food is practically hardwired into our brains. Indulging in these snacks is almost too easy. We don’t have to look far for a bag of salty chips or processed snack, and our genetic predisposition makes it difficult to say no — to the detriment to our health. With recent studies linking excessive levels of salt in our diets to cardiovascular disease, many of us are wrestling with our taste buds. But in the fight between health and flavour, there isn’t always a clear winner.
There comes a certain stigma with foods labelled with ‘diet’, ‘sugar-free’, and ‘reduced salt’. To many people, they’re seen as lacking in some way. Salt, after all, is an essential seasoning in every dish — not just in our favourite bag of Miss Vickie’s. It enhances flavours and highlights any dish’s level of umami. An insufficient amount of salt would affect how much we enjoy our food. That’s why sodium reduction options in food manufacturing have to work hard to hit all of these notes.
As the youngest of the basic flavours, umami is responsible for that savoury, meaty taste that makes us feel full and happy after eating. On a genetic level, these two are a match made in heaven. Salt and the protein-laden umami represent to our lizard brains the most bang for our buck. They, like sugary treats, signify the most amount of calories (and therefore energy) for its size. In times of food scarcity, the small serving size of something like Pringles, turbo-loaded with fats and salts, is a faster (albeit less healthy) way to fill up on calories than fruits and vegetables.
Our brains have been tricked by salt’s charm. The threat of blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke isn’t powerful enough to break sodium’s hold on the majority of people’s diets unless manufacturers like Lays and Pringles use a healthier but no less tasty alternative to salt. Distribution companies like Cambrian Solutions are creating such a solution. Their sodium replacements mimic the flavour profile and preservation abilities of salt with label-friendly, healthier ingredients. In some cases, the work of Cambrian’s suppliers can reduce salt content in packaged foods by up to 40% without disrupting the brand’s well-loved flavour, appearance, or shelf-life.
The technology to limit sodium without affecting food’s perceived saltiness is there. It’s only a matter of food manufacturers partnering with distribution companies like Cambrian before this can happen. Once more companies embrace this ingredient supplier’s innovative solutions, the public’s perception of ‘reduced salt’ foods will change radically. Then it won’t matter that we’re a slave to our natural preferences for salt. We can reach for that bag of sodium-reduced chips at the checkout counter without any guilt, fear for our health, or disappointment in the taste of our chosen snack.