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Savory Snacks

Most savory snacks, including chips, nuts, pretzels, popcorn, French fries, and extruded snacks (cheese balls, shaped potato snacks, etc.), have added sodium in the form of salt. The function of salt in these foods is to contribute to salt taste and overall flavor. For many flavored snack products, salt is used to distribute minor ingredients, such as flavors and colors. Mixing minor ingredients with salt before application can help to ensure even distribution of these components over the surface of the snack (Matz, 1993). In fried products, antioxidants may also be incorporated in these mixtures to prevent the development of rancidity (Ainsworth and Plunkett, 2007). The sodium content of selected savory snacks is shown in Table 4-12.

Secondary functions of sodium in some extruded products are to modify texture and color. Extruded products have a puffy texture and the degree of expansion and airiness has been found to change with the salt concentration of the extrudate and is thought to be due to interactions between salt and starch (a main component of these snacks). Color has also been found to change with salt content, and this relationship has been proposed to be due to the ability of salt to change the water activity of the extrudate and thus change the rate of browning reactions (Ainsworth and Plunkett, 2007).


As shown in Table 4-13, hard candies are generally low in sodium, and other confections may have low levels of sodium-containing leavening or texture-modifying agents (Saulo, 2002). Dairy-based confections will contribute to sodium intake due to the sodium naturally present in milk. Chocolates may also contain small amounts of sodium to contribute to flavor and texture. Some confections are likely to contain added salt for flavoring purposes, particularly those with fillings, such as crèmes or jams

TABLE 4-12 Sodium Content of Savory Snacks

Savory Snack

RACC (g)

Average Sodium Content (mg/RACC)

Average Sodium Content (mg/100 g)

Potato chips




French fries




Buttered popcorn




Plain popcorn




Hard pretzels




NOTE: g = gram; mg = milligram; RACC = reference amount customarily consumed.

SOURCES: 21 CFR 101.12; FDA, 2007.

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