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March 23, 2010

"Designer salt" coming to a potato chip near you

Sea SaltWe've had designer jeans. Designer diaper bags. Now, designer salt.

"Later this month ... PepsiCo Inc. plans to start churning out batches of a secret new ingredient to make its Lay's potato chips healthier," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The ingredient is a new 'designer salt' whose crystal crystals are shaped and sized in a way that reduces the amount of sodium consumers ingest when they munch. PepsiCo hopes the powdery salt, which it is still studying and testing with consumers, will cut sodium levels 25% in its Lay's Classic potato chips."

Sergio Vitale, owner of Aldo's Ristorante Italiano in Little Italy, alerted me to the article. He's skeptical.

"I guarantee you this new salt will eventually be deemed 'bad for your health,' just like margarine," he said. "Food developed in a test tube is not food."


Salt made the old-fashioned way -- solar evaporation of sea water -- in Mexico. Getty Images

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 1:00 PM | | Comments (23)


Somehow I suspect that "designer salt" will prove to be as popular an ingredient in potato chip production as was Olestra.

It seems to me to be targeted towards large-scale industrial food - prepared food makers and fast-food giants.

New York's regulation of sodium intake will probably affect these corners of the market disproportionate to fine-dining or mom-and-pop operations, in terms of folks responding to the product.

I mean -- cummon, what makes McDonald's fries so good? It's the salt.

And, if New York's prescience in banning smoking and trans-fats is any indication, we could consider them a barometer for the overall nutritional health mood of the rest of the country.

FWIW, my family has a history of hypertensive disease - so I've always been a little cautious about my own sodium intake. Cooking for myself and keeping healthy options in mind eating out definitely helps.

But salt is one of those things in public nutrition, like sugar and fat that inversely correlates with education and wealth - those with less resources tend to load up on the bad stuff only because that's what's available for cheap. And that says to me industrial food.

I'll bet the salt is mixed with potassium chloride. Potassium and sodium sort of cancel each other out, so it would be "less salt digested" Potassium chloride is marketed/sold in the grocery store as "No-Salt" salt substitute.
It is salty in taste, but not in the way of our dear friend sodium chloride. From the description in the quoted article, i'm close to positive that i'm correct.

I don't know, Meekrat. It sounds like they are trying to engineer the NaCl so that it maximizes the salt taste while lowering the salt content. Since NaCl is crystalline in structure there may be all kinds of nifty things they could do to the shape of the salt to get max surface tongue action (the name of my new band).

I think something that was 25% KCl would taste weird, as in, terrible.

True salt taste only comes from salt. It's practically in our DNA.

Watcha think?

I'm thinking nano-saltbots too.

I use "no-salt" a great deal as a vitamin supplement of sorts ( chronic low levels), not for flavor at all. It does have some of the same properties in cooking; however i agree, NaCl is The One True Flavor.

It's off putting that they're trying to "engineer" salt. Strikes me that there may be all sorts of strange additives going into making the desired result. ~creaking open sound of the lid of Pandora's Box~
KCl is very fine in texture, close to a powder, which is why i thought of it.

You know what really makes McDonald's fries so darn addictive.. it's the sugar to salt ratio.MMMMMMMMMMM fries... droool.

You're probably right, Meekratty. I am foolishly optimistic and think of some pure Lego-like structure. More likely it would be some cancerous crown ether with an Na ion inside, if that's possible.

I gained a new respect for salt while reading Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. And ever since, I've been waiting for an appropriate moment to mention that I read a whole book on salt. Yep. Just salt.

I think I read that book too, jl. It was huge, well-written, and what I learned was that salt was important. I can't say that I remember much more. But I do remember that isn't just some spice that we add now, it was something that people killed for. Right?

Marley, you are indeed correct. Soldiers (Roman) were also paid in it, hence our word salary.

and salad, salami, but not salamander

from the WSJ: "The ingredient is a new "designer salt" whose crystals are shaped and sized in a way that reduces the amount of sodium consumers ingest when they munch. "

How do you shape salt

How do you shape salt

If I had to guess, it's in forming the lattice structure of the crystal at a molecular level.

Sodium chloride naturally packs into a cubic lattice. One could imagine that if they could find a way to pack it into some other lattice arrangement, or interrupt the periodicity of the lattice, you'd actually have less actual mass per volume.

Think of it as the difference between ice and snow - the looser crystals of snow, interrupted by air, have less actual water.

So it might be fluffy salt?

Two words: buckyballs

Um, Karl, that's one word.

Well thats 2 words in a smashup, right?

just like buck-minister

Right, mate, saves a bit of time but it is you know quite odd picturing a bambi vicar, aint it? I mean what's the point? Deers dont organize well for sundays, right? Seems pointless.

Is that all you have going on in the round little head of yours?

I mean, at the least, we could make your head into a buckyball. at least it would have sides.

(woah there science nerds! capatcha: brahe whom!)

Are you winding me up, mate? Thats daft you know because then well would your hat not fit ill? Sounds like a right flummy situation you know because of me wool topper. I dont like changing hats or much of anything to be honest so no it wouldnt suit me. Besides me heads not made of salt so that wouldnt work now would it?

Is Sergio afraid of modern science? Darwin rejoices.

I happen to know that Sergio is almost always properly identified as a human and not a shaved ape with a beard and an excellent suit.

it's just about the structure of the crystals, subnerds, uh duhhhhhhhhhh .................

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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