As more and more consumers crave culinary adventure, surprising them with appealing new textures could re-invigorate or even expand a category, reveals Looking at Food Textures.
Published by Packaged Facts in collaboration with San Francisco's Center for Culinary Development (CCD), the latest issue of the bimonthly Culinary Trend Mapping Report shows how new textures are currently transforming foods appearing in high-end restaurants, gourmet stores and haute grocers, with the next anticipated step being success in the supermarket.
The report identifies areas where familiar - or unfamiliar - foods exhibiting new textures are appearing, providing an insight into eight emerging food texture trends.
These include tender cured hams in the artisan salumi family, which are softer and more supple and delicate than other ham products. Already appearing on fine dining menus, these meats can also be added to pizzas, sandwiches, wraps and breakfast items, said the report.
Another emerging trend identified is molecular gastronomy, a style of cooking that deconstructs food and flavor and puts them back together again in surprising new forms, with a focus on temperature, texture and physical structure. Examples include turning sauces into foams, gel capsules or caviar-like globules, capturing flavors in smoke and air, freezing soups and turning ice cream savory.
Sous vide, or 'under vacuum', cooking is also poised to spread, according to the report. This method, which involves preparing foods at very low temperatures and in a controlled immersion water bath, produces a delicate, smooth, tender texture, and results in products full of juice and intense flavor.
Artisan candy is also identified as a winner for next year, with grown-up flavors and enticing textures used in kid-friendly forms. Using ingredients such as floral, herbal, spicy and fruity flavors, candy producers are creating more luxurious refined products, which are delicate and lighter on the palate. These are designed to melt in the mouth, dissolve quickly and be easier to chew.
Another emerging trend identified is a move towards healthier, crispy snacks. Usually made from fruit and non-potato vegetables, and cooked in low-trans fat oils, this new snack fulfills a craving for 'crisp'. It is already emerging throughout fine dining establishments and natural grocery stores, and is poised to enter mainstream markets, said the report.
Soft meat jerky is another item gaining increasing popularity, as a tender version of the traditionally tough product is starting to be promoted as a low-fat protein boost for women and children
Crunchy nuts have also become significantly more popular with consumers, who now consider nuts to be a healthy snack. By glazing or candying nuts, manufacturers can add a new texture, as well as a sweet or spicy flavor, resulting in a two-in-one texture product.
Finally, the report also identifies the potential of luring consumers with 'texture speak'. Evocative words - such as 'crispy', 'creamy', 'shredded' and even 'gooey' - are all considered to influence consumer choices.
"Food manufacturers (…) use food textures to communicate messages that appeal to our need states and emotions. Sometimes, by altering an expected texture, a product will stand out from the pack, like crispy-crackling apple chips or tender pieces of pork jerky," according to the report.
"New textures or texture combinations add excitement and generate interest, and thus become a powerful tool for creating new food opportunities."
However, the report also notes that despite the emerging textures it profiles, it is important to keep in mind the classic textures that continue to drive sales. These include contrasting textures, such as crunchy chips and creamy dips; textures that occur from certain cooking methods, like braising or frying; soft and creamy textures of puddings and custards; and iconic textures particular to certain foods, like avocado, ripe melon and spongy marshmallows.