Could miso save manufacturers from the scourge of salt?

You-Mami claim that their powder allows salt reductions of up to 50%, with recipe developer Jonny Bingham explaining its many uses. 

23 January 2020

Salt has become a bit of a dirty word of late. Despite being an essential aspect of almost all areas of cooking and food preparation, the mineral is commonly vilified due to its links to increased risks of heart problems, high blood pressure levels and kidney issues. 

The overuse of salt is a big issue for the food industry as a whole, an issue made all the more pressing in the last few years considering widespread consumer trends in health and wellness.

Even plant-based foods haven’t escaped, with a report by JBH revealing that worrying levels of salt and sugar are present in all of the major fast food players’ vegan offerings.

With salt levels in food such a pressing matter, alternatives and flavour aids could be key to retaining and, indeed, regaining consumer confidence with many retail products – without affecting taste.

You-Mami, a miso-based flavour enhancer, is one potential solution.

Applying umami

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning most commonly made from fermented soy and rice. You-Mami have turned it into a freeze-dried powder that can be applied across a range of products, such as ready meals, sauces, dressings, marinades and soups. The company claim that their product allows manufacturers to reduce salt/MSG levels in food by up to 50%.

The powder comes in two forms. Firstly, the shiro, which is pale yellow in colour and has a milder, sweeter taste due to a short aging process following the fermentation of the soy and rice. Secondly, the aka, which is deep red in colour and has a strong savoury flavour due to much longer aging.

While not a direct salt substitute, You-Mami allows developers to halve the amount traditionally used while keeping the same savoury flavour thanks to miso’s umami taste. 

Flavour for all

Jonny Bingham, co-founder of food development and product innovation duo Bingham & Jones, tells Food Spark that his business have experimented a lot with the product over the years – and with very positive results.

“Around three years ago, we were approached by You-Mami to look at their product and to test it across categories,” explains Bingham who, with co-founder, David Jones, created You-Mami’s first recipe brochure for foodservice.

“We found it to be a fantastic ingredient with a myriad of applications. Initially, we tested it as a straight salt replacement, which it isn’t, but with a little salt it seems to run with it and improve the roundness of it, creating an umami depth whilst allowing for 50% reduction in salt and stock.”

The You-Mami recipe brochure contains 10 low-salt recipes, ranging from a monkfish and mussel bourride to broccoli and stilton soup, with Bingham saying that the powder also works very effectively as a meat tenderiser.

“We also looked at it in baking and it is, again, a very effective improver that creates lightness of the rise as well as flavour, although it would be an expensive ingredient for this in bread,” he remarks.

“Then, we looked at it in brining for ready-to-cook chicken and it is incredible. Not only does it lock in succulence, but it also speeds up the Maillard reaction [a chemical process that gives browned food a particular flavour] and gives a golden-brown colour where standard brines or straight unbrined chicken doesn’t.”

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