Salt’s Role in Reducing Food Waste
Salt, an important preservative for many foods, plays a role in minimizing food waste while government, food manufacturers, and consumers are increasingly focused on sustainability.
The growing food waste crisis in the United States (U.S.) is an issue that the government, businesses, and consumers alike are keeping top of mind. Currently, 40% of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted throughout the supply chain and never makes it onto our tables. One estimate suggests the food wasted is equivalent to about 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions. (1) In terms of financial losses this amounts to more than $160 billion lost in food waste each year in the U.S. (not counting restaurants or retail food waste) according to USDA estimates. (2)
While the USDA is spearheading initiatives and involving industry leaders to combat this food waste issue, consumers are also showing increasing interest in driving sustainability improvements through their purchasing decisions (3, 4). A recent 2018 study uncovered that the number one consumer food trend is “mindful choices,” which includes reducing food waste and increasing value-driven purchases. Consumers are now not only seeking out sustainably sourced, produced, and packaged foods, but it has also become an expectation for food manufacturers to focus on providing non-wasteful options. Reducing spoilage and prolonging shelf life are key ways in which processors are tackling food waste and acknowledging consumer values. (4)
An important component of food safety and preservation is salt. Originally, the main purpose of adding salt to food was to preserve it Today, salt still remains in widespread use for preventing rapid spoilage and prolonging shelf life, reducing the growth of undesirable pathogens, and promoting the growth of desirable micro-organism that benefits various food applications. (5) This important functional role of salt presents an obstacle for food manufacturers who actively seek sodium reduction solutions for their processed foods.
Reducing sodium content in some food applications has the potential to decrease shelf life and increase food spoilage rates, thus worsening the already problematic food waste crisis in the U.S.. However, it’s possible to reduce sodium levels in foods while maintaining the preservation benefits of salt. One of the simplest solutions to achieve a lower sodium product without compromising shelf life is through product reformulation. Potassium chloride is an ideal ingredient that can serve as an alternative to sodium chloride (table salt). Cargill’s Potassium Pro® Potassium Chloride can achieve up to 50% sodium reduction in foods while maintaining similar functionality, such as taste, texture, and preservation. This is a simple and economical solution that offers great performance and is ideal in a wide range of food processing applications. What’s more, Cargill is also the only food company to domestically produce food-grade potassium chloride, which helps to provide an assured supply to customers.