The US firm's global director of flavor applications Dr Guy Hartman said that through its years of research and practical work in the area, the company has developed a "good handle on what today's technology can deliver".
This has allowed the company, he said, to develop a line of flavor systems that form a starting point for further customized work with food firms trying to reduce the sodium content of a wide variety of applications.
"Flavor systems for sodium reduction have always been customized solutions, and will continue to be. But over the years we have been building our capabilities. We created an internal program for generic products, in which we applied our tools and learning to different applications to confirm the scope of our capabilities," Hartman told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
According to IFF, this provides the firm with a base of reference for the types of sodium reductions it is able to help food manufactures achieve. And these can range from 25-50 percent less sodium, depending on the application, it said.
Excess sodium has been shown to increase the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. And according to the American Medical Association, most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods. And although the battle to reduce salt in foods has so far remained voluntary, many food makers, such as General Mills and Campbell, have responded to growing consumer and regulatory concern with reformulation efforts.
Manufacturers can often reduce sodium levels by 10 to 15 percent without reducing consumer liking of their products and without the need to employ sodium reduction technology. IFF says that its portfolio of flavor systems can allow for an additional 15-20 percent reduction without affecting consumer preference.
According to the company's benchmark levels, its flavor systems can achieve a 35 percent sodium reduction in poultry products and broths without affecting consumer liking or functional and textural properties of the products. Sodium in red sauce can be reduced by 25 percent, in meat marinades by 35 percent, and in dry products and salty snacks by up to 50 percent.
Hartman explained that in order to achieve the desired flavor profile for reduced sodium goods, a flavor system needs to provide the taste normally achieved through salt, but also take into account other flavor nuances affected by the reduction of sodium levels.
For example, the salt in a product can round off a flavor profile, level out peaks of flavor or enhance certain notes. With the salt gone, it is up to a flavor system to bring back the desired nuances. One way of achieving this is to add some of the notes that disappear. Removing sodium from a meat marinade, for example, also makes the product's pepper note disappear. So the firm will add a pepper note to its flavor system in order to compensate for this.
Other differences that are taken into account when customizing flavor solutions include labeling requirements or differing regulations in countries where the finished products are marketed, as these often determine which components can be used in each system.
The firm said it has a multifunctional approach when designing its product lines: flavorists work on developing the required flavor profile for each application, a technical team help food manufacturers reformulate their products and overcome any functional issues relating to sodium reduction, and a sensory and consumer insights group conducts tests on the reformulated goods in order to measure consumer acceptance levels.
IFF first started work on flavor systems for reduced sodium applications around eight years ago, designed for use in products targeting special dietary needs.
Since then, the relatively niche market for lower sodium goods has expanded significantly, and is now tapped by most of the nation's major food firms, which are looking to make their branded products healthier.