Chewing the fat: Reformulation and the texture challenge

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Texture can unlock fat reduction possibilities ©iStockVeselovaElena
Texture can unlock fat reduction possibilities ©iStockVeselovaElena
The relationship between texture and taste means that texturants can play an important role in fat reduction efforts.

The interaction between texture and taste perception is an area of product development gaining increasing attention.

A successful product launch or reformulation requires a full suite of sensory attributes working in unison. At a basic sensory level, people frequently desire either a specific texture component or a certain flavour associated with product attributes such as fat perception. 

“Texture is always very important for a food developer and for the consumer,”​ Dr Angie Trius, director at food ingredient and formulation experts CyberColloids, told FoodNavigator. “It can be a matter of stability – for example the suspension of particles in a drink, stability to avoid separation in a sauce or dressing, shelf life - retaining moisture in a product, slowing down the meltdown of ice cream, developing the right texture and mouthfeel for a particular food and many more.”

When developing lower fat products, the key is to replace fat with ingredients that deliver a ‘creamy’ texture.

“When we think about fat we think about the great textural experience that fat delivers in many foods. If you are taking fat out of a recipe, changing the melting behavior of a product or its overall firmness or thickness, it can be challenging to know which texturizing system can build these attributes back in,”​ Judy Whaley, vice president of global R&D, texturants, at Tate & Lyle noted.

What categories can benefit most?

Whaley said starch is the “most common ingredient”​ used in texture formulation design, pointing to the use of starch to reformulate yoghurts.

“When developing yoghurts, we work to anticipate how the starch interacts with the naturally occurring casein in the milk because the overall texture comes from the combination of the two. We have models to predict how the casein increases in concentration as the starch swells in the yoghurt and how, in turn, the overall firmness of the yoghurt increases as the casein gels more. That combined effect gives the desired textural experience.”

She also noted the significant role that texture can play in opening the door to reformulation in other categories – from soups and sauces to salad dressings.

Product developers have to take into account a whole host of product attributes related to texture, Whaley said. In soups and sauces, for instance, fat adds lubricity as well as how it thins in the mouth, mounds on the spoon or “firmness and jiggle”.​ In dressings, formulators also have to consider how the fat is processed because this will impact droplet size.

To assess these factors, Tate & Lyle has developed a sensory profile including around 20 different texture attributes.

“Texture is very important in all product types and replacing fat can present significant challenges for formulators, which is where tools that can simplify the process and help deliver a product consumers will love are can make a difference.”

Fibre can also be used to replace fat and Dr Trius is working alongside Pennotec and the BioComposites Centre of Bangor University to develop a fibre ingredient from apple waste.

“The apple fibre provides a creamy like texture that is very useful as a fat replacer,”​ Dr Trius explained. “Replacing fat is the goal of this fibre, achieved by a unique texture developed when combined with water. The gel/cream that forms when activated in water has unique fat mimetic properties.”

Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager at Cargill, also noted the importance of texture in other reformulation, such as sugar reduction. "When you reduce fat, you have to recreate that creamy texture. The same is true when you reduce sugar; it plays a significant role in a product’s texture, structure and mouthfeel. Whether you’re reducing fat or sugar, you have to find the right combination of ingredients to replicate the missing ingredient."

Clean label is key

Tate and Lyle’s clean label texturizing solutions are growing ahead of the broader business. Delivering its full-year results for the 12 months to end-March, Tate called out growth in this area which, it said, contributed to the 3% volume growth at its Food & Beverage Solutions division. Total group sales were down 2%.

Victoria Stencel, global marketing director for texturants, said that the company has seen particularly strong demand growth for non-GMP texturants.

“As consumers look for more reasons to be confident in the food they buy, manufacturers are seeking ways of providing extra assurances, including accreditation from the Non-GMO Project.

“It was important to meet the need of many of our customers whom wanted to add this to their clean-label credentials, so last year we added the Non-GMO Project Verified certification to several of our starches, which has been very well received by our customers," ​she told FoodNavigator. 

Looking to the future, she expects ongoing demand for ingredients that facilitate reformulation while also keeping the ingredients list clean – without sacrificing the texture experience.

“Clean-label is by far the most prominent trend we see. In the last seven years, new product launches with clean label claims grew by 13.2%, exceeding the number of total launches which grew at the rate of 8.6%.

“We know that 84% of consumers are more likely to buy food products that contain ingredients they understand or recognize. As a result consumers feel reassurance when they see familiar, kitchen cupboard ingredients such as corn starch on the ingredient statement of their favorite products.”

Cargill's Michelle Kozora, technical service manager, also flagged the growing demand for "label friendly" ​starches utilising alternative botanical sources. 

"From an ingredient’s perspective, one area where we see a great deal of focus is demand for label-friendly texturizing ingredients, especially starches. To meet that demand, food scientists at Cargill, and throughout the industry, are exploring new starch sources and evaluating new combinations of native starches, searching for label-friendly solutions to our customers’ toughest texturizing challenges. There is definitely increasing interest in alternative botanical starches (i.e., non-corn) such as tapioca, potato and pea."

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