Adjusting texture for trends

by Jeff Gelski
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Focusing on texture early in product development may result in a quicker, more successful effort.

"In the past, texture has often taken a back seat to flavor optimization," said Matt Patrick, vice-president of R.&D. for TIC Gums, Belcamp, Md. "We’re encouraging product developers to focus on texture design at the earliest stages of their product development projects, which enables them to fully leverage the potential of texture design in differentiating their products from those of their competitors."

Creating products designed for such trends as clean label, high in fiber and free of gluten may affect texture through the addition or subtraction of ingredients. When creating a product with a cleaner label, many of the additives that are subtracted, such as modified food starch, benefit a product’s texture, said YadunandanDar, applications technology manager for North America for National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J. Process tolerance, resistance to shear and low pH are some of the issues to consider, he said.

Designing a product with a cleaner label actually may simplify the texture development process, Mr. Patrick said.

"One of the biggest trends affecting texture design is the increasing focus on the natural (unprocessed) character of food ingredients," he said. "If one considers all of the lipid, protein and carbohydrate-based food ingredients available to product developers for manipulating and designing texture, the choices are overwhelming — and often the most difficult decision is simply where to start.

"But if one limits this tool box to strictly naturally derived (unmodified) sources, the options rapidly fall away."

Gluten-free products are another challenge. They may be gritty, dry and have a limited shelf life, Mr. Dar said.

"For a lot of baked foods, gluten is what provides the chewiness, the elasticity, the sponginess," he said. "If you take a piece of bread and compress it, it kind of springs back."

National Starch launched gluten-free solutions that may be used with such products as cookies, muffins and cakes during "The Best of Food Thinking 2009," the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held last month in Anaheim, Calif. The company combined its experience in producing such gluten-free ingredients as corn, tapioca and rice with the company’s functional flour expertise. A sensory panel found products using National Starch gluten-free recipes came close to matching gluten-containing products in such attributes as smooth, moist and chewy.

Fiber also may affect texture.

"The addition of fiber to foods can be challenging when trying to match the texture profile of a food without fiber," said Tonya Armstrong, senior applications scientist at Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa. "In most cases, the addition of fiber requires adding more water, which can affect the final texture and shelf life of the finished product."

GPC offers the Inscosity modified food starches to increase the shelf life of high-fiber baked foods, snacks, cereals and nutritional bars. The company’s Pure-Cote or Pure-Set modified food starches increase crispiness in high-fiber snacks and cereals.

GPC included Inscosity modified food starch in a high-fiber raspberry bar it offered at the "The Best of Food Thinking 2009." The 50-gram bar included 5 grams of fiber.

Tate & Lyle, P.L.C., London, has focused on differentiating the texture of snacks. The company has a library of products that may be used in extruded products to increase expansion or to provide crispiness without producing a glassy texture, said Doris Dougherty, senior food scientist.

Different textures may be achieved by using the X-Pand’R line of starches from Tate & Lyle. While X-Pand’R provides a crispy texture, X-Pand’R 612 produces a more crunchy or crackly texture. Tate & Lyle also recently launched X-Pand’R SC, which delivers a flaky, layered texture and is considered natural since it may be labeled as corn starch.

Creating products with regional attributes may require a specific texture, Mr. Dar added. For example, Memphis-style barbecue sauce tends to be runnier than Texas-style barbecue sauce. New Orleans-style gumbo needs a certain stringiness to it, and New England clam chowder better be thick enough.

"People in New England will not eat it if it is not quite thick enough," Mr. Dar said.

Precision quickens product development

Speeding up product development and reducing the use of ingredients, such as protein and pasta, are two ways food manufacturers may reduce costs when working on texture.

Dial-In texture technology from National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., is designed specifically to reduce product development time. The process integrates the company’s capabilities in consumer insights, material science, sensory evaluation, application and processing knowledge. It allows a National Starch customer to "dial in" the appropriate level and intensity of desired textural attributes.

"It’s a very data-driven approach," said Suzanne Mutz-Darwell, marketing manager of texture for National Starch Food Innovation. "Whereas traditionally it’s been trial-and-error."

Sampling products in the past may have taken up to a year to find the right texture, said Yadunandan Dar, applications technology manager for North America.

"Maybe you can do that in a quarter now," Mr. Dar said. "It depends on the application."

National Starch employs a trained sensory panel at its Bridgewater site. Ms. Mutz-Darwell said questions regarding texture are specific, such as asking how long the texture lingers on the tongue or how fast or slow it melts away.

Precisa Cling and Precisa Cream texture systems are the first outputs of National Starch’s Dial-In texture technology.

Advanced Food Systems, Inc., Somerset, N.J., uses educated trial-and-error to find the right texture and quicken product development, said Chris Kelly, director of technical services.

"You can narrow it down to what typically works in a given situation," he said.

Then it becomes a matter of finding the right ratios when working with such ingredients as starches, gums and maybe phosphates, he said. If 50% of one ingredient and 20% of another ingredient does not quite work right, a formulator then may try 60% and 30%.

Cargill Texturizing Solutions has experience working with not only such texture ingredients as hydrocolloids, starches and emulsifiers but also how they interact with complementary ingredients and systems, said Susan Gurkin, bakery, snacks and cereals category marketing manager for Cargill Texturizing Solutions, North America.

"Our understanding of how these affect texture and mouthfeel limits the number of trials needed and accelerates the product development cycle," she said.

Frozen foods manufacturers seeking to save on protein and pasta costs need to keep texture in mind. When they add more water to pasta, it may save on costs and it also may affect texture negatively, Mr. Kelly said. The products need freeze-thaw stability. When an entree is reheated, the pasta in it may get even softer. In response, Actobind PTM may improve cooked texture and cooked yield of pasta and noodles, according to Advanced Food Systems.

Frozen foods manufacturers also may save on costs and keep the same texture attributes through the use of Prosante soy protein flakes from Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Ms. Gurkin said. The flakes mimic meat’s natural structure, texture and chewing properties. Applications include ground meat patties, meatballs, nuggets and other ground meat systems.

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