Salt Me! potato chips are the proof-of-concept foray into the savoury snack sector by Florida-based British tech company MicroSalt, owners of a revolutionary patented technology that delivers natural salt with 50% to 70% less sodium.
MicroSalt achieves the same saltiness as traditional salt, but by reducing the size of the salt particle, a University of North Carolina researcher developed a means to slash the sodium content but maintain the taste.
“It’s quite amazing actually. It’s the world’s smallest salt crystal – a hundred times smaller than a regular grain of salt [one micron versus regular salt’s 100 microns],” Mike Marotte, VP of Sales, told BakeryandSnacks while exhibiting at Sweets and Snacks 2022 in Chicago.
“And why that’s important is that the small grain has more surface area, so when you put it in your mouth, it instantly dissolves giving you the saltiness of salt. With regular salt crystals, some of the salt falls off the chip and goes to the bottom of the pack; some you eat and melts a little bit … but you don’t get the full salt [mouthfeel].
“What the technology allows us to do is reduce the sodium content between 50% and 70%.”
On point to tackle the HFSS regs
With a long-term eye on the UK, among other markets, the West Palm Beach business is right on point in helping producers fall in line with the UK government’s soon-to-be implemented restrictions on HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) products.
The new HFSS timeline
October 2022: Instore laws remain applicable in England and Wales from October this year, banning HFSS products from ‘impulse’ areas such as checkouts or gondola ends. [Some exemptions do apply: stores that are smaller than 185.8m2 (2,000 square feet); speciality food stores that sell one type of product, such as chocolate; and businesses with less than 50 employees.]
October 2023: A veto on multibuy deals on foods and drinks and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks will now be delayed for a year.
January 2024: The planned restrictions for banning HFSS being advertised on TV before 9pm and paid-for adverts online have also been pushed back and will come into force January 2024.
“One of the things that we want to be known for is in helping to lower heart disease across the US, the UK and the rest of the world,” added Marotte.
“Lowering sodium is the right thing to do. We all need sodium in our bodies and too little sodium in a human body is not good, but normally that’s not the case. The problem with most of us is we tend to eat a lot of salt because salt makes things taste good.
“So, I do that it’s good the UK has these guidelines and probably a little disappointed that it’s been delayed.”
The time is now
Marotte explained the Salt Me! Potato chips were created to fill a gap in the market.
“There are other brands that are low in sodium, but they’ve basically just reduced the salt content – and when you reduce the salt content, it doesn’t taste good. So, we saw a huge market gap opportunity between, you know, to find an amazing tasting potato chip that was low sodium.
“There are some great tasting potato chips [on the market], but they are high in sodium … also low and no sodium brands, but they don’t taste good.”
According to the American Heart Association, Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium daily, 50% or more than the daily recommended 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium intake. The results: 1.1 billion adults have high blood pressure; 17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease; and 31% all of global deaths are related to cardiovascular disease.
“So, it was pretty clear for us to develop a brand like Salt Me!”
However, the company is not planning to rest on its potato chip laurels and is planning branch out into other types of salty snacks, such as popcorn or tortilla, and to bring out a table salt-style NPD for consumers.
“In the very near future, we aim to revolutionise the salt category, much like truvia and stevia and aspartame and others have done to the sugar category.
“We think the salt category is ripe and ready for some changes. The [most recent innovations] were things like Himalayan salt and flake salt, but we think MicroSalt can ‘evolutionise’ the category. Watch this space.”
The sweet taste of salt
But back to the food manufacturing sector, and the salt is currently available for use in a range of dry topical applications like chips, tortilla chips, nuts, crackers and popcorn.
“Quite frankly, there are a lot of other uses that we haven’t even tested yet because nobody has come to us to say, ‘Hey, can we do it in bread mix? Can we use it in frozen dinners and on fries? Can we use it in peanut butter?’ Because we’re still fairly new [launched in April 2020], we’ve focused first on topical applications,” said Marotte, admitting the company has already signed up a raft of big brand producers and retailers as clients.
“We think [our future’s] pretty bright because we know that consumers will continue to have a need as governments around the world are getting involved to lower sodium. We think we’re in the perfect spot with the right ingredient and the right packaging to do exactly that, to help.”