Creamy, rich, smooth … these are qualities consumers expect from dairy foods. At the same time, they want lower fat, reduced sugar, convenient packaging, extended shelf life and more. Specialized formulations, along with processing and distribution, may all take a toll on product texture, which in turn influences a product’s mouthfeel. This is why texture has become a focal point during the early stages of product development.

Most consumers don’t think about a food’s texture or mouthfeel unless it is inferior. They have expectations, and when a product does not deliver, the consumer often no longer is a customer. Texturants may assist with delivering a product that keeps consumers coming back for more.

“Food texture design and optimization is increasingly a key area of focus in food formulation and development,” said Yadunandan Lal Dar, director of ingredient applications for the South America region of Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., during a presentation at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in June in New Orleans. “Texture optimization addresses a variety of food-related challenges, including raw material supply constraints, seasonal or quality variations in ingredients, and regulatory and labeling considerations.”

Even though texture is a significant attribute in most dairy foods, formulators historically have overlooked its measure during the early stages of product development due to a lack of tools to evaluate and characterize texturant performance. This has changed in recent years due to suppliers’ efforts in developing a lexicon of sensory terms to enable clarity of communication during product development. The texture vocabulary allows formulators to better define texture targets, followed by improved selection of texturants to achieve their goals.

Having a texture language not only reduces product development times by taking the guesswork out of texturant selection, it also helps with keeping formulations clean and simple. This often translates to cost savings and an improved bottom line. (See Page 48 for a chart of 10 common texture terms associated with dairy products.)

The role of texturants

Texturants interact with the major components of a product formulation, the proteins, fats, carbohydrates and moisture. They should work synergistically with other ingredients to develop structure within the product matrix that remains stable over the life of the product. As a result, formulators historically have viewed texturants as stabilizing ingredients.

Today, well-designed texturizing solutions offer much more than stabilization. They may affect sensorial attributes, provide a broad array of functionality, deliver health and wellness support, reduce ingredient costs and offer formula optimization.

During the fat-free frenzy of the early 1990s dairy product formulators starting paying greater attention to the texture of foods. This is because they learned that when fat is removed from dairy, texture, and subsequently, mouthfeel, suffers. The only way to successfully reduce fat is to include additives that build back the full-body, mouth-coating, slick feel of milkfat.

Removing sugar also affects texture. High-intensity sweeteners are able to replace sweetness, but they cannot do much in terms of replacing the solids that are no longer dissolved in a beverage, ice cream or yogurt. Without the addition of texturants, the product seems thin and lacks body. With certain products, a lower viscosity translates to a quicker clearing of the palate with little flavor remaining in the mouth or on the tongue during or after swallowing. By careful selection of texturants, product developers may recreate the experience of the full-fat or sugar-sweetened product, but with fewer calories.

Texturants also may assist with improving eating quality and visual appeal. This may be done by preventing syneresis or oil and water separation. They also may prevent ice crystals from developing during freeze-thaw abuse.

Texturants may protect proteins from denaturing under otherwise unforgiving conditions, such as high pH or high temperature. Depending on the application, texturants may help manage ingredient costs by replacing more expensive ingredients such as milkfat.

Sources and function

Usually carbohydrate- or protein-based, texturants vary in function and by application. For example, maltodextrins and polydextrose add body and build total solids, while starches add viscosity and body. Gums tend to build viscosity and prevent phase separation, while emulsifiers bind fat and aqueous phases.

In some dairy applications, microbial cultures may contribute to finished product texture. For example, ropy cultures increase viscosity and gel stability in yogurt.

Numerous exhibitors at the I.F.T. put their texturizing ingredients to work in dairy applications. For example, Solazyme Inc., South San Francisco, Calif., featured an algal flour that functions as an emulsifier in dairy applications. It allows for a reduction of calories and fat while maintaining the same overall mouthfeel and consistency of the full-fat product.

A similar high-protein algal flour was demonstrated by Roquette America Inc., Geneva, Ill., in a chocolate pudding. The algal flour allowed for a 37% reduction in fat, which dropped calories by 31%, without compromising texture or mouthfeel. The algal flour’s thickening and emulsifying properties make it a useful texturant in high-protein smoothies and dairy-based protein beverages, too.

Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, Colo., debuted a potato-based modified starch that may replace up to 50% of solid fat in dairy-based desserts and spreads. This bland-tasting ingredient was demonstrated in a low-fat, reduced- calorie cream cheese spread. A high-emulsifying starch was used in an iced café mocha beverage to reduce cost and provide greater stability.

Ingredion sampled a spinach gorgonzola Greek yogurt dip made with its clean label functional native instant starch. The starch has moderate process tolerance and is easily dispersible, providing instant thickening and yielding a short, smooth texture.

The yogurt used in the dip was Greek-style, as a high protein content and thick consistency was achieved by combining skim milk with milk protein concentrate (M.P.C.) and an emulsifying texturant system without the need to invest capital in straining equipment. Milk proteins are dairy products’ inherent texturant system. Because they are so powerful with helping develop structure and texture, they often are added as isolated ingredients, such as M.P.C., whey protein concentrate and dairy permeate.

The emulsifying texturant system from Ingredion was designed to deliver an indulgent, thick and creamy, gelled texture in cultured dairy products. It enables dairy product manufacturers to produce a range of dairy products on conventional stirred yogurt equipment, while possibly reducing production time and costs.

The texture system also may help formulators reduce fat and calories, as it improves firmness and gel strength in nonfat products to mimic the full-fat eating experience. The system may be used in dairy desserts, as well as fermented dairy products such as yogurt and sour cream. It is resistant to high temperature, high shear and low pH, and also is characterized as having good cold temperature stability and providing a smooth, creamy texture. It provides fat-like characteristics, including a clean meltaway.

The dairy proteins in this Greek-style yogurt prototype not only increase the protein content of the formulation but also bind moisture to prevent syneresis. In cheese products, milk proteins may assist with increasing yield and in other cultured products, they provide thickness.

Idaho Milk Products, Jerome, Idaho, showcased how milk proteins not only stabilize yogurt and increase protein content, but how they also do not distract from the milky flavor and aroma of cultured dairy foods, something possible with excessive use of other stabilizing ingredients.

The company markets an M.P.C. designed for use in processed, non-standardized cheese. The milk proteins are designed to increase cheese emulsification, adding to the cheese body and helping control melt characteristics. The milk proteins are added to processed cheese formulations to achieve the proper fat-to-nonfat solids ratio, especially when milkfat is an ingredient in the formulation. The proteins improve appearance by promoting a more homogenous, creamier looking texture.

Perhaps the most important function for milk proteins in processed cheese is to control the melt characteristics. By carefully adjusting usage levels, the extent of melt browning, melt spread and deformity may be easily controlled.

The company offers milk permeate powder (M.P.P.), which meets the regulatory requirements for the standard of identity of sour cream. Solids nonfat fortification levels in sour cream may range from 9% to 11% of the total dairy solids. By using M.P.P. in nonfat sour cream, manufacturers may produce a finished product that meets the standard of identity, while reducing cost.

Agropur Ingredients, Quebec, debuted a patented technology to isolate what it describes as three-dimension milk fractions that provide creaminess without fat. The technology concentrates milk’s essential flavor molecules and enables formulators to enhance reduced-fat, sodium and sugar formulations in order to maintain desirable flavor, richness and textural properties. The concentrate also is designed to counteract the metallic taste associated with some non-nutritive sweeteners.

In lower-fat frozen desserts, this dairy fraction may replace 15% or more of the nonfat dry milk in a formulation, which helps lower costs while improving texture and mouthfeel. It may be blended into stabilizing systems without complicating the manufacturing process and is labeled as simply dairy solids or dairy flavor.

Using dairy-derived ingredients in dairy applications makes a great deal of sense when clean label is a priority. Ingredia Inc., Wapakoneta, Ohio, showed how one of its specialty milk proteins may be used to create a 10% protein drinkable yogurt. The milk protein was designed to improve mouthfeel and creaminess while having high-water binding and emulsifying capabilities and excellent hydration properties, wettability and dispersibility.

One of the company’s functional native proteins comes directly from milk through a non-denaturing process and may be used in the manufacture of a quark-based cultured dairy snack. The protein allows for a glossy appearance and a creamy mouthfeel, while delivering a fresh and milky taste that one expects in such a fresh cheese.

Glanbia Nutritionals Inc., Fitchburg, Wis., introduced a grade A Greek yogurt powder that allows for Greek yogurt flavor — and a “made with Greek yogurt” claim — in all types of products, including smoothies and dips. Made from cultured skim milk and M.P.C., the ingredient helps build viscosity while delivering the sour taste one expects with Greek yogurt.

With most dairy products, formulators are challenged with preventing protein aggregation, gritty or chalky mouthfeel, thinness, settling of insoluble ingredients and visual separation. Texturants can assist with stabilization, suspension and thickening. They make it possible to produce consumer-appealing dairy foods with a consistent, uniform quality.