A Food and Drink iNet grant helped prove that a revolutionary new salt product could be used successfully in the baking industry, potentially paving the way to improving the nation’s health.

A Nottingham company has discovered a way of modifying salt which allows food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their products, without affecting taste.

eminate Limited has been able to adapt salt to provide more taste from smaller quantities. The product, called Soda-Lo 20, could help the food industry meet government guidelines for salt levels in manufactured foods, which are aimed at cutting cardiovascular disease rates in the country.

An Innovation Support Grant (ISG) from the Food and Drink iNet, of just over £4,000, helped the firm gather the proof that the technology worked in the bakery industry, and opened the door to discussions and trials with the major UK bakeries. The company now has strong interest in its product from the UK’s three leading bakery companies, which could be worth millions of new business, year on year in the future.

“The Innovation Support Grant provided eminate with the resource to access the facilities and technical expertise of Nottingham Trent University, at Brackenhurst, where the output provided explanations of the function of Soda-Lo 20 in baked bread. This now forms the basis of a technical explanation of its ability to reduce salt content in bread, by as much as 70%,” said eminate’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Andrew Stacey.

“If we were looking at a 2% level of salt in a loaf of bread, we have been able to take it down to 0.6%. This sort of salt reduction could improve the nation’s health, through a dramatic reduction in cardiovascular disease.”

The Soda-Lo particles are a fraction of the size of standard salt, about 1/100th the diameter, and provide more taste, through a massively increased surface area.

Based at BioCity, the largest bio-incubator in Western Europe, eminate Limited is a company set up under a joint initiative from the Technology Strategy Board and The University of Nottingham, the company’s owners. The goal was to address industrial needs and solve them. With Leatherhead Food International, eminate identified the need for a solution to meet the government-set guidelines to reduce salt in 2010 and subsequently in 2012.

Chief Technical Officer, Steve Minter, at eminate, said: “There are many solutions out there that are being looked at by the food industry. Ours provides a very acceptable solution, without replacements. The results we are seeing are looking very promising.”

David Wallace, Innovation Director at East Midlands Development Agency (emda) said: “In the current climate, it is more important than ever that companies think and work innovatively. The new Soda-Lo product which eminate has developed is a tremendous example of how, by thinking ‘outside the box’, companies can gain a competitive advantage and find new customers in new markets. That is why emda is committed to supporting innovation in the region.”

Food and Drink iNet business adviser for Nottinghamshire Paul Sheppard said: “Innovation Support Grants are designed to make a real difference to a company’s prospects, such as helping the development of a novel technology or process, or a new product, service or way of doing business. This project with eminate fitted the bill perfectly.”

The Food and Drink iNet is aiming to foster innovation in the region’s food and drink sector by encouraging businesses to turn new ideas into new business through the development of new technologies and products. It’s also hoping to stimulate new processes, services and ways of working in the industry to help boost the sector in 2009 and beyond.

Funded by emda, the Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by the Food & Drink Forum and including the Food Processing Faraday Partnership, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham.

Through the ISGs, support valued at up to £10,000 is available per business, providing that 50% match-funding is given by the company in ‘cash’ or in ‘kind’.

The money can be used to fund external expertise and knowledge to help manage innovation projects more effectively – giving businesses a route to some of the most up-to-date and comprehensive information available to help them kick-start their idea.

The Food and Drink iNet can work with small and medium sized businesses as well as larger companies in the sector across the East Midlands.

Firms wanting more information should contact the Food and Drink iNet on 0845 521 2066 or visit www.foodanddrink-inet.org.uk

For information about support for innovation that is available in the East Midlands, visit www.eminnovation.org.uk