Texture trends and innovation: Modifying mouthfeel, engaging the senses and making visual statements
28 Oct 2019 --- Texture enhances any food experience and continues to be a prominent feature in food and beverage innovation globally. Overall, texture trends fit directly into the three mega consumer-driven trends: the demand for plant-based foods, the desire for clean label, and sugar reduction. As these demands continue to grow, the need to formulate with texture becomes increasingly critical to manufacturers because ingredients must deliver texture experiences consumers know and love. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at the way texture is shaping the food and beverage space.
For Matthias Bourdeau, Marketing Manager for Texturizers at Cargill, innovation in texture is driven by three main consumer trends: pursuing a healthy and balanced lifestyle, making more conscious choices and looking for memorable and share-worthy food experiences. “These trends are not necessarily new but are evolving and becoming increasingly intertwined. Indeed, attitudes towards what constitutes tasty, nutritious and sustainable foods are changing, and so are the expectations towards food manufacturers,” he explains.
In plant-based foods, the sensory experience the average consumer seeks is changing, and taste and texture is becoming essential to make products stand out.
Chloé Des Courtis Senior Marketing Manager, EMEA Region at CP Kelco, says the clean label megatrend will continue with formulators trying new plant-based protein sources. “Of course, with the clean label megatrend still going strong, texture has become much more important – especially if you’re trying to reduce sugar. Consumers want clean label benefits and vegan versions of their favorites, but only if the texture mimics the traditional product. This is true in dairy alternatives (milk, yogurts, cheeses, desserts), meat alternatives (shape and texture), and gelatin-free, plant-based dessert mousses. Even the move towards greener carbs involves texture innovation: rice and pasta made from peas, cauliflower and other plant-based proteins,” she explains.
Discussing the challenges in this space, Des Courtis says that “when working with the new plant-based proteins, which can be gritty, there are often suspension challenges, especially in beverages and drinking yogurts.”
The advent of ‘flexitarians’ represents an opportunity but also a challenge for producers of plant-based products, Bourdeau continues. “Animal-based proteins play a crucial role in both the structuring or texturing, such as gelling, stabilizing or emulsifying, of foods, especially in meats, dairy and confectionery products.”
“Depending on the alternative plant-based protein source that is used to replace the animal-based protein, the alternative formulation will have to have an increased inclusion of the adequate starches, pectin, biopolymers, or an adequate blend of these ingredients.”
It is essential to understand the interactions of these ingredients with the alternative protein, as well as find solutions that work within set production and process constraints, he adds.
Werner Barbosa, Vice President, Global Texture Platform Tate & Lyle, also views the alternative meat category as one to watch. “With the surge of alternative meat products in both the grocery and foodservice space, ingredients that successfully contribute to texture and overall product quality that drives consumers likening and repeat purchase,” she explains.
Texture themes will continue to reflect the broader consumer trends, according to Judy Whaley, Senior Vice President Global R&D for Tate & Lyle. “There will be a growing range of textures, but these will likely come to life in the context of products following the sugar reduction, plant power and clean-label trends,” she adds.
Texture claims on pack
Another example of the impact of evolving trends is the development of label-friendly products. “Whereas the focus in past years was on simple labels and reducing the number of ingredients on the back of the pack, we see a move towards ingredients that consumers are more familiar with and that can be labeled with reference to their botanical source,” Bourdeau notes. “Consumers are not willing to compromise on taste and texture and manufacturers need ingredients that deliver on functionality and can withstand various processing conditions,” he adds.
According to Whaley, texture claims on the pack are increasingly important to drive purchase interest. As consumers seek more simple ingredients, there has been an increase in preference for starches that label simply as either corn or tapioca starch, she notes. “Recognition of tapioca starch, in particular, is growing; a 2019 Tate & Lyle US proprietary research study confirmed that consumers have a more positive impression of tapioca starch than other starches in the yogurt category, for example.”
For Violaine Fauvarque, Marketing Manager at Alland & Robert, formulating products to reach satisfactory organoleptic profiles, good textures and low-calorie content involves new formulation and can be challenging. “Many of our customers are asking for our help in the health and nutrition industry. They want to develop dietary or healthy clean label products with more fiber and less sugar, for example,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Another trend the French acacia gum supplier sees is the use of entirely new ingredients, like new flours or exotic flavors, and the formulation of products offering brand new texture experiences for the consumer. “Acacia gum is definitely a part of new formulations, thanks to its huge versatility and the fact that it is a texturing agent,” Fauvarque notes.
Meanwhile, products with a combination of textures are taking center stage, notes Des Courtis. “It’s that mix of crunchy and creamy, mousse-like and crisp that creates interesting textures and allows for a variety of flavors. The layers also make a statement visually. Inclusions, such as grains, cereal and seeds, are trending, too,” she adds.
“Even drinking a beverage is about more than quenching thirst. In the Middle East and Asia, drinking jellies are showcasing playful, interactive textures. And the trend of creating barista-style coffee beverages is growing because consumers love that indulgent, foamy texture on top, with dairy and dairy alternatives alike,” says Des Courtis.
“One of the main factors influencing the purchasing decision of consumers is pleasure, while adventure and experimentation with food continues to be a megatrend globally,” Des Courtis continues. “The eating experience is highly dependent on taste and texture, making texture modification critical to a product’s success. Texture is also a way to differentiate products, especially in a very competitive segment such as desserts and dairy products,” she notes.
For Bourdeau, the importance of innovation in texture means focusing on a memorable experience. “In this context, we see more and more that it is essential for food manufacturers and their suppliers to cooperate closely together and integrate consumer demands.”
Moreover, studies have shown that consumers want to feel inspired and engage their senses in the food they eat. “The texture and mouthfeel play a huge role in that experience,” Fauvarque continues. “That is why we focus a lot on texture research.” For example, the company conducted a study on the impact of acacia gum in bread, and found that it improves texture and softness, especially in gluten-free bread, she adds.
However, consumer habits and expectations may vary significantly depending on the country, Fauvarque highlights. “Sugar reduction is really standing out now. The change of attitude towards sugar is one of the most important food evolution of the last few years,” she explains. “The health issues faced by the world population must be addressed, and the food industry has a role to play via the reformulation of products and the promotion of healthy diets.”
Globally, consumers are asking for more naturalness and have the desire to minimize their consumption of sugar. Now the challenge is for manufacturers to find a solution to reduce sugar content without diminishing the taste of their products.
“When using acacia gum as a texturing agent, it can bring low viscosity and a good solution to compensate the loss of volume, texture and mouthfeel in sugar-free products,” Fauvarque explains. “Acacia gum is also known to bring stability factors by reducing the water activity, and improve the softness as well as the mouthfeel thanks to an increase of the water retention.”
The consumer appeal for clean label, healthy and sustainable food and drinks will continue to drive demand for naturally-textured products, without compromise on the sensory experience. Food manufacturers will search for ingredients that provide benefits as well as texture, and are sustainable and ethical,” she concludes.
Innovation in texture will be a standout theme for 2020, but outside of the typical food areas. We can expect to see new textures, combined with flavors, in snacking and dairy, in particular, but also in beverages and confectionery. Plant-based and clean label trends will continue to thrive globally, as the demand for meat alternatives will further grow. Sugar reduction will also remain a priority, as consumers opt for healthier choices, to replicate the same texture that sugar brings, manufacturers will look for ingredients that offer new textures and appealing tastes.
By Elizabeth Green
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