Reduced-Salt Emulsion Technologies (Re-SET)

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


Increased salt intake has been linked to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and stroke [1], with both illnesses placing a
huge burden on health services and lowering life quality. The British Heart Foundation estimated that UK health care costs
for both CVD and stokes to be >£17bn (2006). Low salt foods and snacks can help ease this strain, however consumers
still expect a pleasurable eating experience. This requires formulation of food products of "invisibly" reduced salt, similar in
taste and "convenience" to their full-salt counterparts. Reducing the size of salt crystals (<25 microns) added to food has
been attempted but unfortunately provides an unwanted saltiness "burst". Reduced-salt healthy foods and snacks based on
shell technologies could overcome this as these shell-stabilised emulsion constructs can be used to modulate salt release
and thus salt perception/"saltiness" [2].
Nonetheless uses of such structuring technologies in dry (semi-dry) foods are absent due to serious processing and
stability issues; (a) Processing issues: due to the fragile nature of shell interfaces, such structures are difficult to process.
Further innovation is required to be able to apply these delicate structures onto the food surface. (b) Stability issues:
emulsions containing salt are subject to large osmotic pressure and chemical potential differences which tend to destabilise
these structures. Adding these salt-containing emulsions into/onto dry foods accelerates the destabilisation process.
Evidence from research at the University of Birmingham suggests that stable osmotic separation with triglyceride shells is
possible [2] and these shells can be constructed to melt at different temperatures and rates, thus giving potential to
modulate salt perception at much lower salt concentrations. This project will deliver both the formulation design rules and
processing routes in order to manufacture shell-stabilised water-in-oil emulsions for the development of salt-redued
healthy snack foods. The proposed project programme is carefully designed to quickly recognise potential shell-stabilised
emulsion "technologies" for use in prototype manufacture, to scale-up the processes to produce these and finally to
sensorially evaluate the manufactured prototypes and establish whether they can deliver acceptable salt-reduced snack
food products.
The project team provides a unique and synergistic offering which will catalyse different thinking, approaches and pave
the way for innovation, through understanding of surface chemistries, advances in process and formulation engineering,
measurement and characterisation. The proposed research program involves the University of Birmingham (UoB) and
PepsiCo. The technology developed and understanding gained from this collaboration will enable many new applications
and foods to reach the market, with IPR from this project also expected to be commercially innovative.
[1] Strazzullo et al. BMJ 2009; 339:b4567;
[2] Frasch-Melnik et al., 2010. J Food Eng. 98: 437.

Planned Impact

Manufacturing/industrial impacts will include:
- PepsiCo will be leading the Re-SET project and as a result the Food industrial sector will benefit immediately from this
research, with PepsiCo realising the initial impact of the new technologies. However, the information generated will also be
of benefit to other sectors (HPC, pharmaceutical/medical, crop protection, etc) and we will ensure it is made available to a
wide range of companies across all manufacturing sectors via current industrial contacts through the UoB's "Formulation
Engineering EngD scheme" and other programmes/research collaborations at the School of Chemical Engineering, UoB. In
addition, the generic learnings from the initial activities will be disseminated and exploited more widely through research
publications and conferences and consequently the underlying technologies will have a far-reaching impact.
- A major impact from the Re-SET project will be that, by interfacing the emulsion formulation engineering academic and
the manufacturing industrial sectors, the project will drive the research agenda through proposals to BBSRC, EPSRC, TSB,
etc. This together with the consortium's current and future research interactions would create a real opportunity to define
the future funding strategy through further collaborative programmes. The scheme will unite two (academia and industry)
internationally leading teams to develop formulation and processing engineering technologies in directions that would not
be possible in isolation; forming a unique skill set in Food formulation engineering and Food manufacturing in the UK which
will be at the forefront of international research.
Technological impacts will include:
- New industry practice and products designed using the technologies developed within the Re-SET project, i.e.
concurrent design of process and product to deliver microstructure(s) for flavour delivery (or delivery of other species
beneficial to health) in the mouth and, in extension, to other parts of the human GI tract. The Re-SET project will as a result
seed and deliver the innovation to develop new formulation and manufacturing methods. The results will enable the
development of new products and processes and thus impact both on the profitability of the lead company (and their ability
to keep manufacturing in the UK) and on consumers by delivering healthier safe food products.
- Publications and dissemination; project's scientific outcomes will be published in the academic literature as well as in
trade journals, and also presented in key national and international conferences.
Policy impacts will include:
- Food policy. The delivery of new functional structures that can be constructed and incorporated in foods to reduce their
salt content (while still maintaining a consumer acceptable "saltiness" level) would be of great benefit to consumers and
industry, and as such the project's outcomes would inform policy in areas such as food diet and health and food
manufacturing, with also a potential impact on food sustainability.
- Professional institutions - Participation at IChemE/RSC/ISPE meetings to disseminate the generic learnings from the
Re-SET project and influence future training needs of the professions and how the outputs of the project can influence the
strategies of the institutions.
Description Crystalline shells around water droplets can be used to encapsulate salt.

Selection of crystallising material for shell structures allows triggered/timed release of salt.

Salt reduction by as much as 80% is possible in snacks with no perceived saltiness reduction.
Exploitation Route The findings can be used for other snacks and foods.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Although this project is still ongoing, the indications are that the approach and microstructures will be used to produce low salt snacks that have not been possible using traditional approaches.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Brum dine with me 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A large number of the general public attended.

Researchers have been invited to talk to schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013