Salt-free strategy: Heartful Flavours on a mission to reduce sodium levels with innovative Asian staples range

By Audrey Yow

- Last updated on GMT

Thai Green Curry, Korean Bibimbap, and Vietnamese Pho are Heartful Flavours new products. © Heartful Flavours
Thai Green Curry, Korean Bibimbap, and Vietnamese Pho are Heartful Flavours new products. © Heartful Flavours

Related tags Sodium Salt reduction Hypertension Salt Blood pressure Nutrition

Australian-based start-up Heartful Flavours is on a mission to educate consumers that their taste buds can get used to less salt, as it ramps up promotion of its salt-free Asian staples.

Food start-up Heartful Flavours offers salt-free packet sauce powders that replicate Asian favourites without compromising taste.

Asian food is unique because of its condiments and sauces. However, pantry staples such as soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce are sodium laden.

In 2023, a World Health Organization (WHO) report stated that the global mean sodium intake of adults is 4310 mg/day, or 10.78 g/day salt. This is more than double the WHO recommendation of less than 2000 mg/day sodium, or <5 g/day salt, which means a tablespoon of soy sauce would already make up half the recommended daily intake.

“Excess sodium intake has been attributed to 1.9 million deaths and 45 million disability-adjusted life years on an annual basis. Our Heartful Flavours products with 5 Health Star Ratings determined using the Australian system (5 health stars is the highest), which is a first in the meal base seasoning category and has nutritionally balanced recipes on the back of pack, are the perfect solution to help health-conscious consumers eliminate excess sodium intake, support heart health and their health span,”​ said Heartful Flavours co-founder Rebecca Luong.

“I really haven't seen a solution in the market. Even if you look at a low sodium soy sauce, it's still a few 1,000 mg per 100 grams. Our product is less than 120 mg per 100 grams. There's a very big difference.”

Flavourful without excess sodium

As a trained dietician and a PhD holder in heart and metabolic health, Luong explained that sodium is naturally present in many types of food, so our bodies don't require additional salt in the form of seasonings like sauces and condiments. She also said that it only takes 1 to 4 weeks for our taste buds to be conditioned to accept less salty food.

“It all comes down to education and awareness. Our taste buds can adapt to less sugar, that means you can do the same for salt,”​ said Luong.

However, she acknowledged that food is an important part of Asian culture, which motivated her to seek healthier alternatives that honour Asian flavours.

Yeast, along with herbs and spices such as onion and garlic, are crucial ingredients in Heartful Flavours’ meal bases, which are Thai Green Curry, Korean Bibimbap, and Vietnamese Pho. These were showcased at their official launch during the Naturally Good Expo held at ICC Sydney from 3–4 June 2024. 

Luong and her co-founders, Gordon Fung and Jansen Lorbes, tried multiple formulations over two years before they perfected the taste of these products. Fung and Lorbes are also very familiar with Asian cuisine and are her university course mates with a background in food science.

“It is very difficult to create Asian dishes without sauces and condiments. We did many formulations using all healthy, natural, plant-based and whole food ingredients. The final product has no added salt and sugar, and is low in sodium and saturated fat. It was definitely a challenge to recreate the same flavours and keep it healthy at the same time. Yeast is important for savouriness. There are also herbs, spices, fruit, and vegetables that provide natural savouriness and sweetness,”​ said Luong.

At sampling sessions that were held during the Naturally Good Expo and in-store, the meal bases have received positive feedback.

“When we do the samplings, it's just the meal base without any added salt. I've had Asian aunties who tried them and they gave a thumbs up. And we’re not that expensive. It's $10 AUD for a pack that serves 4. That's $2.50 AUD for a healthy meal per person,” ​said Luong, who emphasised that the meal bases contain only premium ingredients like yeast, herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables compared to other brands.

Furthermore, the meal bases are quick and easy to use. Nutritionally balanced recipe suggestions at the back of the pack also help reduce the mental load required for meal preparation, such as using the right ingredients to meet nutritional requirements. Following the recipe suggestions, when divided among four persons, each serving offers half a plate of vegetables, quarter-plate carbohydrates, and quarter-plate protein. They also align with healthy dietary plans like the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.

At home, customers can add their choice of protein and vegetables to enhance the taste. They can also try to adapt to taking less salt by controlling the amount that's added to their meal.

“You could do one teaspoon of fish sauce this week. The next week, do 3/4 teaspoon, the week after reduce it to 1/2 teaspoon and then you can go down to 1/4 teaspoon, eventually cutting it out completely,”​ said Luong.

“Everything else on the market has salt added to it, you can't take it out, so consumers don't have a choice. What we're offering is choice and control. Anyone can take control of added salt, sugar, and saturated fat in their diet.”

Heartful Flavours is also ramping up their education efforts via social media to increase awareness on the issues of excess sodium intake and taste buds adaptivity. When asked about their expansion plans, Luong said she and her team are working on more popular Asian recipes.

“We plan on increasing our product line with more flavours to continue creating healthiest versions of our favourite cultural dishes, establishing our brand in Australia, Asia Pacific and beyond. We are open to collaborations,” ​said Luong.

Heartful Flavours soft launched in the last quarter of 2023 and takes international orders via its website. Its products are also available in independent health food stores in Australia. So far, they have taken orders from the US, UK and New Zealand. There is also some interest in Singapore and Vietnam.

Healthier Product Innovation will be taking centre stage at our Growth Asia Summit 2024 this coming July, which will feature insights from a wide range of industry leaders and experts. Don't miss out – register here today!

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