CARGILL SEA SALT TRIES TO CATCH HEALTH WAVE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Food product marketers looking to catch the wave of consumer demand for products made with natural ingredients may want to try using sea salt instead of the more traditional types. Cargill Foods Salt division here has recently introduced two products under the California Sea Salt brand that fit the bill: a coarse kosher salt and a pretzel salt."The explosion of natural food stores certainly

MINNEAPOLIS -- Food product marketers looking to catch the wave of consumer demand for products made with natural ingredients may want to try using sea salt instead of the more traditional types. Cargill Foods Salt division here has recently introduced two products under the California Sea Salt brand that fit the bill: a coarse kosher salt and a pretzel salt.

"The explosion of natural food stores certainly indicates the popularity of natural foods. We're marketing this as an all-natural product and from that perspective a processor can use it as they wish. But sea salt does have a healthful connotation to the consumer," said Kent Rudeen, marketing manager for Cargill Salt.

Both the kosher food and the pretzel industries have experienced phenomenal growth in the last several years, leading Cargill to focus on developing sea salts specifically for these markets. The kosher salt is made with the largest cut and screening, characteristic of salt used to kosher meats. It meets all guidelines required for kosher foods and is approved by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the agency that certifies 80% of all kosher foods sold in the United States.

During the past few years, the kosher industry has grown tremendously because of the perception that kosher foods are more healthy, said Rudeen. "This is a marketing angle we plan to pursue because the use of kosher foods extends far beyond the Jewish population."

Because pretzels have been experiencing double-digit growth, Cargill also decided to offer sea salt as a pretzel salt. This product, which is also certified as kosher, is screened to the appropriate size for pretzel manufacturers -- a coarse granulation that gives the characteristic flavor and the required adherence qualities for pretzels.

Because California Sea Salt is naturally made, it's a perfect fit for today's health-conscious consumer, Rudeen said.

Unlike other salt, sea salt is naturally produced from sea water, and contains no additives or preservatives. It is made by solar evaporation of sea water in California's San Francisco Bay area. Cargill is the only domestic producer of food-grade sea salt.

Using sea salt can sometimes present a technical challenge. Most other salt used in foods contains additives that prevent caking under humid conditions or are used as flow agents. Because sea salt is free of these additives, it can require stricter storage and handling requirements under typical manufacturing conditions, Rudeen said.