Design of complex microstructures and processes for advanced salt reduction in foods

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Overall the research project will investigate the design of complex microstructures and processes for their manufacture, to achieve salt reduction in foods. The aim is, not simply to reduce salt, or replace it by use of alternative chemicals but to carefully establish salt delivery profiles that give the required perception of taste and flavour with a dramatic decrease in the 'hidden salt'. For instance have salt released in pulses in the mouth during consumption or increasing the rate of salt release during mastication etc. Such approaches will not compromise to the consumer in terms of perceived flavour, enjoyment or e-numbers. Thereby, a minimum amount of salt for good flavour will be used, leading to high quality and tasty foods with much lower salt giving the opportunity to work towards government guidelines of reducing the salt intake. Hence, the controlled delivery of salt from complex microstructures during consumption is the subject of this research. The work in Birmingham aims to design complex microstructures to modulate perception by delivering specific release profiles determined from experiments performed at the University of Nottingham. An in-vitro experimental system capable of measuring salt deposition, retention and release in the local vicinity of salt receptors mimicking in-mouth saliva flow conditions will be designed and built. In order to achieve the desired flow profile it is necessary to develop greater understanding of the key factors of how product microstructure and saliva flow affects the action of salt in the local region of salt receptors. This will be achieved using the in-vitro measurement system to study a range of well controlled complex microstructures including structured aqueous phases, structured interfacial layers, o/w, w/o and w/w emulsions and dispersions. Key control parameters to be investigated will include phase inversion, phase continuity, controlled dispersion (size distribution and volume fraction), formulation and rheology. To achieve phased release of salt, inclusion of complex microcapsules will be studied. Other technical routes to be pursued will include compartmentalization of salt using duplex particles and biopolymers. A computational model will be developed in collaboration with Unilever that would predict the deposition, retention and release of salt from structured food materials to the bio-substrate of salt receptors. Accuracy of developed models will be evaluated with experimental measurements. The validated models will be used to optimize microstructures in order to achieve truly modulated salt delivery. In the later stages of the project and once the production of real food systems has commenced the in house equipment will be used to evaluate salt release profiles


10 25 50
publication icon
Esteban J (2017) Understanding and Modeling the Liquid Uptake in Porous Compacted Powder Preparations. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

publication icon
Frasch-Melnik S (2010) W1/O/W2 double emulsions stabilised by fat crystals - Formulation, stability and salt release in Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

publication icon
Hussain M (2017) Microstructural and dynamic oscillatory aspects of yogurt as influenced by hydrolysed guar gum in International Journal of Food Science & Technology

publication icon
Lee L (2013) Emulsification: Mechanistic understanding in Trends in Food Science & Technology

publication icon
Mills T (2013) Development of tribology equipment to study dynamic processes in Journal of Food Engineering

publication icon
Zimbitas G (2017) Free-standing thin film interactions with small particles in Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies

Description The main objectives of the work to be performed in the were to investigate various aspects of complex microstructure for delivering the controlled release of small molecules. More specifically in this work we developed a deeper understanding of microstructural behaviour in oral process via designing of rigs that simulate eating. Controlled release of salt using emulsion based system stabilised with fat crystals. The microstructures were delivered using a rotating membrane emulsification system.
Exploitation Route The knowledge generated from these findings could be used to to create, design and characterise emulsion based systems that can be used from food manufacturers as well agrochemicals. The work has led to further collaboration (i.e. TSB projects and studentships) from manufacturers in those areas.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description The findings from this work have allowed for: (1) designing microstructures that allow for encapsulation and control release of salt from emulsion based systems. The emulsions were produced using novel manufacturing techniques. These findings on only resulted in a number of publications but also were key to ongoing collaboration with food and agrochemical industry (i.e. Pepsico, Cargill, Sygenta) (2) developing a better understanding of oral processes that have led to design of low fat foods. The findings led to collaborations with food and drink companies aiming to design low fat foods (Pepsico, Cargill)
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description University of Birmingham
Amount £193,146 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H035540/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2010 
End 03/2012
Description University of Birmingham
Amount £498,994 (GBP)
Funding ID TS/1000623/1 
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2007 
End 11/2010