Protein shake
Potassium chloride and potassium citrate work in various applications.

KANSAS CITY — Potassium chloride remains a popular ingredient in order to reduce sodium and add potassium in food products, but that’s not the only way potassium may be used in sodium reduction strategies. Tripotassium citrate (potassium citrate) is one example as it is an option for several applications, including beverages.

Foods rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of sodium, according to the American Heart Association, Dallas. The more potassium a person eats, the more sodium is lost through urine. Potassium also helps to ease tension in blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.

Potassium citrate has a mild, pleasant and salty taste with a potassium content of 36%, said Caitlin Jamison, market development manager of health and nutrition for Jungbunzlauer, Inc. and based in Newton Centre, Mass. Additionally, it is water-soluble.

“This makes it easy to use for beverages,” she said. “Beyond fortification, citrates play a functional role to improve emulsification and reduce heat-related fouling deposits in protein-based beverages.”

The dairy industry and the dairy alternative industry have used sodium citrate for this purpose.

“However, potassium citrate offers similar functionality with the added benefit of providing trace amounts of potassium and a cleaner label,” Ms. Jamison said.

Potassium chloride remains in demand, too. Minneapolis-based Cargill this year opened a new potassium chloride production facility in Watkins Glen, N.Y., that has become the company’s primary production facility for potassium chloride, said Mike Beaverson, senior marketing manager for Cargill Salt.

Potassium chloride has been shown to reduce sodium by up to 50% in a range of applications, including baked foods, soup, ready-to-eat meals, snacks and sauces, according to Cargill. The company offers a variety of potassium chloride products.

“Matching the correct sodium reduction solution will vary depending on the food application,” said Janice Johnson, Ph.D., research development manager for Cargill Salt. “For brine solutions or beverages, Potassium Pro is ideal. FlakeSelect products have a unique shape that promotes faster dissolution, which can be beneficial for protein extraction in meat applications. The FlakeSelect process combines salt and potassium chloride to help prevent segregation, which may have taste benefits in some food applications such as bakery and snacks.”

An NHANES report has shown that 98% of the U.S. population does not consume enough potassium, said Alice Wilkinson, vice-president of nutritional innovation for Watson, Inc., West Haven, Conn.

“Potassium is difficult to formulate with as it has a flavor issue, and the dose is so large that even if it were flavor-neutral, it simply takes up more space than most formulas have,” she said.

Watson has developed a line of encapsulated potassium sources that help reduce flavor concerns.

“We work with potassium phosphates and chlorides in either hot melt lipid encapsulation (or) cellulose encapsulation,” Ms. Wilkinson said. “Some are designed as thin layer to keep use rates down, and our customers are having success with these products in a variety of food types, including bars and beverages.”

Potassium bicarbonates may be used as direct replacements for sodium bicarbonates in leavening applications. Church & Dwight, Inc., Ewing, N.J., offers Flow-K potassium bicarbonate, a food grade potassium bicarbonate product composed of a proprietary flow aid system that assures excellent storage and handling properties, according to the company. It allows for reduced sodium levels while maintaining overall quality and flavor. This product commonly is used in the leavening system for cakes, muffins, and cookies. It also may be used in effervescent drink mixes.

Jungbunzlauer’s sub4salt line of products uses blends of salt with potassium-based salts to provide 35% to 50% sodium reduction when used as a 1:1 replacement for salt, Ms. Jamison said. The products include combinations of potassium chloride, potassium gluconate and potassium citrate.

Potassium chloride has been linked to a bitter and metallic taste that may require flavor adjustments in formulations.

“Potassium chloride does have this typical profile, but other salts, including potassium citrate, potassium gluconate and potassium lactate, have a very clean, pleasant taste at intended use levels,” Ms. Jamison said. “In addition, Jungbunzlauer has also found that they can actually help with masking the off-taste in many food products. Some of these may be a bit surprising. For example, potassium citrate may be a logical replacement for sodium citrate when buffering a beverage. However, for certain fruity flavor profiles, such as berries, lactates work very well for enhancing the flavor character.

“Potassium-based salts can also be helpful for masking the linger and off-notes associated with high-intensity sweeteners in low-calorie beverages. Jungbunzlauer has also done work with using potassium citrate as part of a masking system for infant formulas made with protein hydrolysates.”