Crispy to crunchy

by Jeff Gelski
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The texture of a food product may affect how it sounds upon a consumer biting into it. How a food sounds then may influence consumer acceptance, including in the baked snacks category.

“In snacks, specifically in crackers and chips, there is a lot of movement to baked items to remove some of the oil and fat,” said Wendy Erickson, technical services manager for Cargill Texturizing Solutions in Minneapolis.

A move to baked snacks from fried snacks may affect the crunch sound.

“We’ve been doing that for a long time, making fried snack products,” Ms. Erickson said. “When we change processes, it is not as easy to get the same textural attributes in that crunch.”

Formulators may use different types of modified food starches, like an emulsifying starch, in baked snacks, she said. Some proteins, such as soy protein, may contribute to a harder texture, depending on the baked snack, she added.

Crunchy sounds, as well as crispy sounds, may come in various forms.

The Texicon food texture language published last year by Corn Products International/National Starch Food Innovation includes specific textural attributes that are based on sound as well as those based on appearance and what is experienced in the mouth. A continuum of sounds exists between crispy and crunchy, said Suzanne Mutz-Darwell, senior market development manager, texture for Corn Products Inter-national/National Starch Food Innovation. Crunchy products tend to be louder, have a longer duration of sound (as chewing) and a lower pitch, whereas crispy products tend to be quieter, dissolve more quickly and have a slightly higher pitch.

Ms. Mutz-Darwell said some initial research into texture likes and dislikes indicates that sometimes consumers associate a crunchy sound with energy and excitement, which might appeal to teenagers. For a crunchy example, a baked pretzel will not dissolve as fast in the mouth and provide a longer crunch.
“It will break up into many pieces,” Ms. Mutz-Darwell said. “The sound will diminish slightly, but it will continue for many bites.”

The same research suggested consumers may associate a crispy-sounding product as being healthier. A crispy product may appeal more to young children, who are just beginning to eat solid foods, because they have a texture that is easier to eat, Ms. Mutz-Darwell said.

“Crinchy,” which is found in National Starch’s Texicon, refers to a texture space somewhere in between crunchy and crispy. “Crinchy” may be used to describe the sounds of some toasted and baked chips and snacks.

Corn Products International/National Starch used the word “crinchy” to describe the sound of prototype baked potato crisps. Ultra-Crisp CS, a cold-water-swelling, unmodified waxy maize starch, is added at 20% to 25% to help achieve the “crinchy” texture. Adjustments also are made in added water, process parameters and bake time.

No matter the food category, formulators should know what they want their product to sound like at the beginning of product formulation, said Harold Nicoll, marketing manager for TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md. They should take into account the product’s market segment, texture criteria and flavor when deciding upon sound.

“There are definitely different types of crunch sounds associated with foods,” Mr. Nicoll said. “It is hard to know which are more desirable than others, but we do know that the differences are distinct, recordable and demonstrable.

“The crunch produced by candy-coated nuts, chocolate or gum is part of the overall experience of eating any of these. Panning is the process of coating the outside of these with a candy shell. Each has its own unique sounds.”

TIC Gums in its Texture Revolution lexicon of terms includes words associated with sound. Brittleness is the ten-dency of a product to fracture/break with little application of force, and fracturability is the tendency of a product to shatter into little pieces. TIC Gums also published “Crunch Prints,” a library of recorded food sounds.

“What we learned was that each had a very distinct, recognizable pattern, as unique as a human finger print,” Mr. Nicoll said of the sounds.

“Crunch Prints” showed how pieces of gum made with different panning strategies had specific sounds. One piece was panned with acacia gum, also known as gum Arabic. A second piece was panned with TicaPan 311, an acacia gum alternative, and a third piece was panned with TicaPan Quick Crunch, another acacia gum alternative.

“The decibel portrait of each illustrates how small changes to texture will have a big impact on the experience individual consumers will have with each,” Mr. Nicoll said.

The sound then may affect enjoyment of a product.

“(Sound) is part of the fun of a food,” Ms. Mutz-Darwell said. “It’s part of the experience.”
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