Texture is one of the defining attributes of foods and beverages and influences our eating and drinking experience – but how is it important in product development?
Flavour perception isn't just about the basic tastes of salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. Aroma also matters, and some compounds trigger a trigeminal response – a pain-like reaction to chilli for example. Appearance, sound and texture of food all contribute to flavour too.
There is ongoing research into the various effects of texture on flavour, and one recent study suggested that texture might even affect the consumer’s experience of how filling a food or drink is, regardless of calories.
What is well-known is that texture affects how food is broken down in the mouth and how flavour is released. Firms that specialise in ingredients that are integral to texture – like starches and hydrocolloids – are keen therefore that food and drink makers consider texture right at the beginning of the new product development process.
Ingredion, for example, has developed a ‘Texicon’ – a food texture language to help bridge the gap between imprecise consumer expressions for mouthfeel and measurable parameters understood by sensory specialists.
It also uses texture mapping to determine texture expectations. Texture maps may help companies benchmark their products and then manipulate recipes or processes to move a product toward a more desirable position.
TIC Gums has also come up with a texture lexicon, which it says helps all parties to stay on the same page when it comes to a product’s texture, and attributes like how it coats or clears the mouth.
“It’s really around having a shared language that would be the basis of a more objective communication between us and our customers,” the company’s president Greg Anton said in a conversation with FoodNavigator . “What are they trying to achieve with their reformulation or their product development?
“…You can’t really effectively have that communication if you don’t have a really good communication tool. That’s really what the lexicon is.”
He said the texture lexicon covered a hundred or so basic attributes that would be relevant for just about any product development.
‘As important as flavour’
“Texture is every bit as important as flavour, and it really has a big impact on the way flavour is perceived,” he said.
“Our recommendation is don’t leave it to the end of the product development process. Make sure you define up front – just like you may be doing already for flavour – what is your goal for texture?
“If you know both your flavour and your texture goal up front, then we can work from the very beginning on designing a finished product that manages your expectations.”