Victor Hugo Manzanilla, CEO of Microsalt and SaltMe! – a new snack brand, which delivers a full flavor chip with 50% less sodium, told Potato Processing International about the breakthrough technology, which has created the world’s smallest grain of salt. MicroSalt’s large surface area compared to its size triggers a psychological factor in taste where the faster something dissolves on the tongue, the stronger its taste is perceived by the brain. This allows you to reduce sodium intake by 50% while still maintaining full flavor.
Please tell us about SaltMe! potato chips and the main drivers behind bringing this product to market. Our goal in developing SaltMe! was to create a full flavor potato chip with 50% less sodium. Traditionally, reduced salt potato chips end up tasting bland or lacking, so we developed a healthier alternative that tastes identical to big name competitors. We also saw a whitespace opportunity for a brand to own the low sodium niche. Every other brand that had a low sodium option, they lacked flavor or it was a small line-extension of the overall brand. We decided to own that space with SaltMe!. SaltMe! Chips were developed by Microsalt Inc., they are non-GMO, kosher and gluten-free and come in four different flavors: Original, Barbecue, Cheddar and Sour Cream, Sour Cream and Onion.
Please describe the NPD process and the challenges you had to overcome in developing this product. Our initial ambition was to create a classic style potato chip with SaltMe!, in order to showcase Microsalt’s patented technology. Applying Microsalt® to potato chips was not an issue. The biggest challenge was to truly deliver the full flavor promise with 50% less sodium. In order to achieve that, we had to go through a process of trial and error in order to succeed. We were able to prove parity flavor (but 50% less sodium) vs. the leading potato chip makers via a test led by the New York Sensory Institute.
Please discuss the market for this product and how the growing health trend plays into it. How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence consumer demand? Our mission at MicroSalt® and SaltMe! Chips is to develop food technology solutions that empower people to live healthy lives. While sales of processed snack foods went up during the pandemic, this past year has also highlighted the need for health conscious alternatives. Salt is a contributing factor to hypertension, which if left untreated can lead to heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. With health a major topic of focus after the pandemic, overconsumption of salt is becoming an issue for consumers, doctors and regulators alike.
Tell us about Microsalt and how this innovation differs from other sodium-reducing solutions. The micro-sized particles of MicroSalt® are approximately 100x smaller and taste much saltier than typical salt crystals as well as being free from any substitutes or bitter aftertaste. This allows consumers to reduce their sodium intake by half, without compromising on flavor. Unlike competitors, MicroSalt® is not a salt alternative like potassium chloride, which often tastes bitter or metallic, it is a true non-gmo and kosher salt. Microsalt’s fast dissolving salt crystals produce an intense sensation of saltiness in the brain. MicroSalt® maintains great flavor while also allowing you to use less salt and sodium to get the same level of saltiness. The benefit of the micro-sized crystals is that they dissolve virtually immediately as they touch your tongue, delivering a perceived preakness of saltiness with much less sodium. In comparison, regular table salt dissolves much slower, making you consume salt that is never tasted. The company is aspiring to become the leading provider of low sodium salt in the world.
“The micro-sized particles of MicroSalt® are approximately 100x smaller and taste much saltier than typical salt crystals as well as being free from any substitutes or bitter aftertaste. This allows consumers to reduce their sodium intake by half, without compromising on flavor.” Victor Hugo Manzanilla, CEO of Microsalt and SaltMe!
What are the modifications in seasoning application equipment that a processor has to do, in order to use this type of salt for potato chips? No change is needed to apply MicroSalt® to potato chips. MicroSalt® is applied using the same equipment used for any other seasoning. Also, due to the micro-sized particles, MicroSalt® attaches much better to surfaces, so it can be used in both cold and warm chip surfaces.
How do such small particles adhere to the product and how do you minimize waste during production? Due to the weight and size of the micro-sized crystals, the electrostatic forces work in our favor, eliminating the waste due to precipitation. The adhesion power of Microsalt® is unparalleled to any other salt substitute in the market. Because of this, snacks manufacturers can rest assured that the flavor profile stays consistent during the whole distribution and sales process.
What has been the consumer feedback to your product? What about retailers? Virtually every feedback we have received is that SaltMe! Chips are indistinguishable from other big brand name alternatives. We have been highly rated in Amazon (4.3+ stars) and selected as Amazon choice for low sodium snacks in the past 4 months. Additionally, our retail business has been growing consistently adding more stores every month.
“The benefit of the micro-sized crystals is that they dissolve virtually immediately as they touch your tongue, delivering a perceived preakness of saltiness with much less sodium. In comparison, regular table salt dissolves much slower, making you consume salt that is never tasted.” Victor Hugo Manzanilla, CEO of Microsalt and SaltMe!