The “locavore” movement is thriving in America as a result of the overall mega-trend of sustainability, which started with “locally grown” produce and has now crossed over into the meat segment. As consumers become increasingly more connected to their diets, they also demand more healthful options. But when it comes to food claims, perception is not always a reality.

Industry chatter around demand for reduced-sodium food products remains high. While recommended sodium intake levels have recently been reduced, there’s talk of reducing them even further. While consumers appreciate the health benefits this mandate promotes, those of us in the food industry must ensure that sodium isn’t reduced to a level that impedes functionality or food safety.

“When you consider economics, functionality and flavor, there is no substitute for salt or for phosphates in general,” says Jim Anderson, Business development Manager for Meat, Poultry and Seafood, ICL Food Specialties. “It’s a very interesting time to be in the meat processing industry, as we must adjust processes and formulations to meet trends. After decades of doing things a certain way, we are essentially learning how to marinate all over again and adjusting processes to work without as much sodium in the mix.”

If sodium levels in meat are too low, this could lead to microbiological or food safety concerns. Deep chill processing facilitates this concern. Yet while this method keeps proteins manageable, today’s ingredients are not always a fit for cold processing, which can create more waste in plants and make for difficult muscle dispersion which can lead to inconsistencies. ICL Food Specialties has a full line of specialty ingredients for meat processing that protect proteins during cold processing conditions.

What’s in a Label?

Consumer demands and industry trends not only impact the way we process foods, but they also affect the way we label the end product. Take, for example, the word “natural.” If given an option, most of us might choose a natural food – but what exactly constitutes natural, besides the word being stamped on a food label?

“Despite being an ambiguous term, in recent years you would see lots of point-of-purchase advertising touting food products as natural,” Anderson says. “In fact, this claim has become so commonplace that it’s failed to be impactful; so we’re seeing a new trend emerging as food companies talk about the pure essence of a meat product.”

There’s nothing ambiguous about the ingredient solutions available from ICL Food Specialties. “Products like our Salona, which is extracted from the Dead Sea, lower sodium naturally while allowing processors greater flexibility in meeting sodium targets,” explains Anderson. “Our core ingredients are among the most naturally occurring minerals on Earth.”