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Optimizing Ingredients

How Microencapsulated Salt Reduces Sodium in Cheese Without Affecting Flavor

High salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), intake has been linked with diseases and strokes. Processed foods, to which cheese belong, contribute to dietary salt intake. Therefore, there is widespread interest to reduce salt in cheese. Salt acts as preservative and flavor enhancer in cheese. In addition, salt has a main role in the functional properties of cheese. Accordingly, there is a challenge in reducing salt without affecting cheese quality. The reduction of salt has been achieved through the decrease of its content used and replacement by Potassium Chloride. Potassium Chloride has a bitter taste, in spite of its beneficial effects, and so flavor additive preservatives are often used to mask the unpleasant taste of added Potassium Chloride. In natural cheese, for example some mozzarella cheese, these approaches adversely affected the cheese properties, particularly the characteristic flavor and texture. Additionally, microbial stability and functional properties of the final product are affected when Potassium Chloride is used as a replacement for salt. When salt content is reduced in natural cheese, proteolysis, water activity, acidity and bitterness increase, while hardness decrease. In addition, reports show that irregular fermentations could occur which may alter the desired characteristic taste of the cheese, e.g., development of a bitter unacceptable flavor.

Role of salt in cheese making.

Salt has an essential function in the protein hydration and the modification of the water binding capacity of casein within the cheese matrix and viscosity, which affects the stability and textural properties. Fresh Mozzarella cheese often develops a soft wet surface during storage, has a short shelf life and contributes to a wet and unappealing cheese on pizzas. Mozzarella cheese manufacturers suffer economic losses from wet pizza cheese with short shelf life.

The study.

We have been working with an industrial mozzarella cheese manufacture to increase shelf life, preserve the water binding capacity of casein and to prevent microbial growth. Using a microencapsulated salt resulted in a 30% reduction in overall salt use without affecting flavor, texture and without any effect on water activity. There was also a marked improvement in shelf life. A study from the Netherlands showed that saltiness of breads formulated with microencapsulated salt a level of 1% was equal to or higher than breads formulated with normal raw uncoated salt at a level of 2%.

The implications.

Microencapsulated salt can be added to cheese to reduce sodium content without affecting flavor. Additionally, use of microencapsulated salt addition in an industrial study, did not affect texture or other cheese functionalities. However, it did result in decrease water activity and increased shelf life. Microencapsulation can also be used to cost effectively mask the bitter taste of Potassium Chloride to permit more of its use in cheese manufacturing. With the addition of microencapsulated salt there is the potential to significantly use less salt.

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