EAST LANSING, Mich. — A salt substitute patented by Michigan State University is being used in an improved version of Heinz no-salt-added ketchup that's hitting store shelves just in time for the first barbecues of spring.
Created by Kris Berglund, MSU University Distinguished Professor of forestry and chemical engineering and materials science, and Hasan Alizadeh, former MSU research associate, the product – sold commercially as AlsoSalt – was patented in 1999 and is produced by Diversified Natural Products in Scottville, Mich.
"There's no sodium in AlsoSalt," Berglund explained. "It's made from lysine, which is fermented from corn starch. It's an example of the other bioproducts that can be made from some of the same processes that produce ethanol."
The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, funded by Michigan corn growers, was an early supporter of the research to develop AlsoSalt. "We're excited to see a large company such as Heinz get behind the product and use it in ketchup," said Jody Pollok-Newsom, executive director.
Joan Watsabaugh, whose company markets and distributes AlsoSalt, was responsible for working with the research and development team at Heinz. She characterized the flavor of the new ketchup as excellent. “We are proud to be co-branding with Heinz to make ketchup that has only 5 milligrams of sodium per serving. Using AlsoSalt, Heinz removed the added salt while retaining the delicious flavor people expect from Heinz ketchup.”
"We did a lot of ketchup tasting and you can't tell the difference between the no-salt-added ketchup and the original version," said Debbie Dell, a DNP assistant plant manager who has worked on AlsoSalt since its inception. To meet the new demand, Dell said DNP had increased its production of AlsoSalt.
According to Berglund, the 10-year period between the patent date and new product isn't unusual. "It takes time to successfully commercialize a product," he said.
AlsoSalt is just one of a number of bioproducts that have resulted from Berglund's research. His work has spawned enterprises in Michigan, Sweden and France. Working Bugs, LLC, an East Lansing-based company, and its Swedish counterpart Working Bugs AB, co-founded by Berglund, identify microbes that could be used in fermentation processes to make products from renewable resources, as well as intermediate chemicals that are used to make other biobased products.
"AlsoSalt production is another example of biorefining that can produce a full complement of biobased chemicals, fuels and other products," Berglund said. "This approach creates a diversified operation that isn't subject to the ups and downs of a single market or product."
Berglund's research is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
For more information on Michigan State University's bioproduct research, visit: www.bioeconomy.msu.edu.
For more information on the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, visit www.maes.msu.edu.
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