Key Interview: Sensory Eating Experiences with Ingredion

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18 Apr 2017 --- Texture makes foods and beverages vividly memorable and enjoyable. It's in line with taste in defining the eating and drinking experience. Ingredion has more than 60 years’ experience in texturizing food and beverages. The company’s' extensive product portfolio offers a wide choice of texturizing ingredients, including base viscosifiers and co-texturizers, as well as gelling, crisping and pulping agents – all are used to create different textures and claims.

The growing research focused around how people manipulate food in their mouths has led to a better modern-day understanding of sensory perception. In fact, four breakthrough studies in this field have helped form Ingredion's current understanding of eating styles and how they apply to recipe formulation in any food category.

FoodIngedientsFirst caught up with Severine Bensa, European Marketing Manager for Texture at Ingredion, who discusses developments in the world of sensory experience and their impact on product development. “Consumers are constantly seeking new and exciting eating and drinking experiences,” she explains. “For a long time, we believed that flavor dictated our everyday eating habits, actually other senses, in particular mouthfeel play a critical role.”

Health and nutrition is certainly trending: “Consumers want low sugar, low fat, protein-enriched, nutritionally functional products with a premium texture,” she claims. 

Bensa notes that sugar reduction is high on the agenda for consumers and manufacturers: “Sugar is the new fat. It can be quite challenging to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe. When you remove sugar you are also removing some of the texture consumers have come to expect in the product so you need to make sure you can replace it, while ensuring it tastes as it should.”

Which is more challenging – taste or texture? “They are both equally as challenging, but rebuilding the texture, while ensuring the end product achieves a specific, desired label claim, requires a more technical focus. Therefore depending on the ingredients you want to add to your existing recipe and the type of application you are reformulating, you must consider the personal preferences of consumers not only in texture, but in terms of ‘on pack’ label claims,” she says. 

Ingredion recently launched a new research report into texture and consumer eating styles exploring how the physical way consumers eat influences their food preferences and satisfaction levels. 

“An area of particular interest has been in the snacking category,” Bensa states. “From cookies to cakes, and chips to sweets, consumers know what they want from a snacking experience. Using our ingredients, manufacturers are able to creative innovative, new textures to enhance the sensory experience of their products. For instance, this includes anything from a very light coated peanut, to a hard and crunchy shell,” she adds. 

“There are many products on the market offering different textures for both sweet and savory foods. Confectionary is one area to watch in this development,” Bensa claims. “Once manufacturers have established what is it that consumers want, only then can they develop new products that answer those needs.”

“Countless psychological and emotional studies have shown that a combination of sight, smell, sound, touch, taste and emotions play a critical role in our enjoyment of food,” says Bensa. “Significant data has emerged suggesting that texture (mouthfeel) is the new taste and an integral factor in consumer preference.”

“When you ask consumers what they like about a certain food, the first thing they point to is its taste or flavor. However, when you ask what it is that they don’t like about a product, they’ll point to its texture,” she continues, “It is this that we have found particularly interesting and an area we’re keen to explore further.”

According to Bensa, consumers not only have a low awareness of texture, but have a subconscious habit of manipulating food in their mouths, and an inability to accurately articulate texture preference. As a result, manufacturers face the challenge of creating innovative consumer winning products, without sufficient knowledge of their target consumers’ textural needs. “If the texture of the finished product doesn’t align with consumers’ preferences, many won’t repeat the purchase,” she adds. 

“Using a sample of 500 individuals and a typing tool called Jeltema/Beckley Mouth Behavior (JBMB - Copyright 2016 – The Understanding & Insight Group, LLC.), U&I first proved that texture perception differs according to the individual’s predisposed mouth behaviour and way they manipulate foods in the mouth. U&I then theorised four primary mouth behaviour groups: Crunchers, Chewers, Smooshers and Suckers. Ingredion built upon this research, extending it to include emotional drivers, consumer research and other sensory analysis to define four different eating styles. So, what started out as a hypothesis in 2001, is now a proven model and methodology for profiling consumers’ unexpressed texture preference. One that any food producer can use to better understand consumer preference in relation to texture.”

Crunchers
These individuals eat their food forcefully and want to be able to crunch until it’s gone. They are often the fastest eaters of all four groups, using a more aggressive mouth action – even when eating soft foods. Recipes targeted at this group should fracture upon biting, although fellow diners are likely to notice that they eat loudly.  

Chewers
Consumers belonging to this group like the sensation of chewing and look for a certain amount of fullness in the mouth when they find a food that is particularly satisfying. These individuals can be either short or long chewers, but what they have in common is a dislike of food that easily breaks up. To counteract this, they’ll attempt to turn the food into a moist mass so that they can enjoy chewing for longer. 

Smooshers
In many ways, this group has the most interesting of eating styles. Smooshers are the arch manipulators of food, using both their tongue and palate to mash the food into a soft mass that can be held in the mouth for a long time. They don’t enjoy chewing, but they do like to turn crunchy foods into a ‘smoosh’ that can be spread throughout the mouth. As such, they process and eat foods slowly.  

Suckers
These individuals are preoccupied with sucking out the flavor before chewing or swallowing. They enjoy foods that can be processed in this way for a long time and tend to be slow eaters. Foods that can’t be sucked will be chewed, but not enjoyed at the same level as ones that can be sucked. This group prefers harder foods that they can hold in their mouths for prolonged periods.

“Each consumer is different. They eat differently and will be satisfied by different types of textures. Therefore manufacturers must ensure that their products meet the unexpressed texture preference of their target consumers,” Bensa explains. 

Ingredion intends to continue its research into eating styles and consumer preferences. “This is our latest piece of research on consumer insights in sensory experiences, and we do plan to do more studies on new trends. Sensory Experience is a platform that we want to develop more moving forward into 2017 and beyond.” 

“The savory snacking area will grow significantly in the next years,” she notes. “We are currently working on some new launches, which are delivering innovative, new textures for snacks. We will be showcasing them at FIE later in the year where we will have concepts that demonstrate our expertise in texture and sensory experience as a whole.”

“We are always looking to further extend our offerings in or sensory experiences. For example, vegan food is another area which can be challenging but where there are a wealth of opportunities for texture development. We are continuing to work with manufacturers to incorporate vegetable proteins into formulations, while maintaining the deliciousness of food and the overall eating experience,” Bensa finalizes. 

by Elizabeth Kenward

Ingredion Incorporated

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