R&D: Changing Texture to Match Consumer Preferences -- April 2008
One of the challenges for the product developer is to create products that meet consumer expectations for flavor, aroma and texture. For example, consumers expect that potato chips will have a crisp bite or that other products will be chewy. If actual texture does not match what is expected, it can adversely affect how the individual and the marketplace as a whole accept that product.
Market research helps to translate consumer needs and demands to products that will fly in the market. For example, National Starch Food Innovation’s Texture Innovation Team has taken descriptors used by consumers, such as creamy, silky, luscious and indulgent, and developed sensory terminology such as firmness, mouthcoating and meltaway to describe the creamy eating experience. The latter three terms mean the amount of force required to deform a sample; the degree to which a product coats the mouth; and the rate at which the product dissolves or melts, respectively. Developers must use tools such as sensory evaluation, consumer testing and modeling of consumer preferences to identify potential gaps and move forward to fill those gaps or demands. In a presentation entitled “Solving Texture Challenges--Innovating New Textures and Maintaining Texture and Quality in the Face of Rising Ingredient Costs,” presenter Max Koxholt discussed these concepts at Prepared Foods’ 2007 R&D Seminars--CHICAGO.
Proper use and application of starches can help control texture and can even replace or mimic fats. The polymers that make up starch come in two basic shapes: straight chain (amylose, for example) and branched chains (amylopectin). National Starch has developed a starch “toolbox” that may be used as a guide when selecting a starch to be used in a product. Another part of the equation is how the starch performs when subjected to different processes. Depending upon the product in which the starch is being used, developers need to look at how the product is affected by temperature, the presence of acid and the effects of shear. Starch manufacturing processes will effect cross-linking between starch molecules, which will affect finished product texture.
Starches, including National Starch’s N-DULGE™, a new line of what the company calls Co-Texturizers™, are being utilized more and more in dairy-based products, including yogurt. The products in this line have different characteristics for use in different applications. N-DULGE C1 provides thick, full mouthfeel and slow meltaway, such as one would expect from a caramel sauce. N-DULGE C2 has a slight mouthfeel and is “slippery.” This has the texture of chocolate fondue. N-DULGE CA1 provides a creamy, firm, even mouthfeel, such as one would expect with creamy peanut butter. These, and other Co-Texturizing products in the line, can be used to create products for discerning consumers.
Companies wishing to develop new products (or improve the textural properties of old ones) should work with their vendor to find the right product for the application that best suits their needs. Developing new products entails much more than simply creating a flavor and texture system. Processors need to consider how the products are processed, their pH and the shear to which they will be subjected. Each of these will affect the sensory and textural properties of finished products and how consumers will perceive them.
--Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor
For more information:
National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J.
Max Koxholt, 908-685-7010