Less Sodium, More Umami
Kikkoman Natural Flavor Enhancer lets manufacturers reduce sodium by 30%to 50% and keep a clean label
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the R&D labs of Kikkoman USA have investigated the multiple benefits of a natural flavor enhancer, a modified form of soy sauce.
Among other properties, they researched NFE’s ability to function as a salt reducer and natural flavor enhancer; as a preservative and anti-spoilage agent; and as a booster of organoleptic attributes of processed animal protein products, such as deli meats and frankfurters. Studies have focused on NFE alone, as well as NFE combined with brewed soy sauce, sodium chloride (as table salt) and potassium chloride, a common sodium replacement.
In the studies, NFE demonstrated more “meaty,” satisfying umami notes and less of the characteristic soy sauce flavor than standard, brewed soy sauces. Because it also has a lighter color, it has reduced flavor and color impact on formulations. NFE uses a higher percentage of wheat, as well as a 10-fold increase in yeast. The temperatures held across processing differ from the methods used for typical soy sauce, and it requires a shorter fermentation period. This will lead to a lower finished salt content than in traditional soy sauce.
Kikkoman produces a line of NFE ingredients with the same basic ingredients as brewed soy sauce: specifically, wheat, soybeans, water and salt. (One form includes the addition of yeast extract.) The ingredients are grown and sourced in North America. The soybeans are gently fermented vs. exposure to chemical hydrolysis, to release high levels of amino acid. These protein components are responsible for umami, the so-called “fifth taste” identified with the savory characteristics of food, sometimes described as “meaty” or “mushroomy.”
NFE can allow developers to reduce sodium by 30-50% in savory applications, such as meat, poultry, seafood, soups, dressings, marinades, dry mixes and seasoning blends. It achieves this by increasing desirable umami notes and enhancing aroma and color. Kikkoman provides its NFE in three formats, liquid (NFE-L), powder (NFE-P) and powder with yeast extract (NFE-PY). The liquid format contains 10% less sodium than traditional, brewed soy sauce, and the powder form contains 30% less sodium than dehydrated, traditional soy sauce.
Because sodium also serves as a preservative in formulations, some processors question whether or not there is sufficient anti-spoilage action in soy sauce—a question that extends to NFE.
To address that angle, University of Wisconsin and Kikkoman USA researchers worked with uncured, sliced turkey deli meat loafs. Results showed both soy sauce and NFE stabilized the lipid content—as evidenced by inhibited formation of hexanes (by-products of lipid oxidation) after one week of refrigerated storage in vacuum-packed containers. Moreover, flavor and texture across 11 days of refrigerated storage at 1°C were demonstrated “as superior,” when assessed by volunteer panelists in controlled conditions (including control for visual differences due to coloration of the meat by soy sauce).
NFE works as both a flavor enhancer and salt replacer. On labels, NFE can appear as “naturally brewed soy sauce.” Furthermore, since it has no monosodium glutamate or hydrolyzed vegetable protein, it allows for a clean ingredient statement. All ingredients are made in the U.S.; are kosher-certified; and are under strict GMP/HACCP programs to ensure safety and traceability.
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Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc.