“Texture is a crucial factor in meeting consumer expectations for a satisfying eating experience,” said Alison Knight, technical development manager for the company’s bakery division.
The company says that the new system will allow the creation of value-added end products which respond to consumer demands for healthier products without compromising the desired texture. For example, manufacturers will be able to maintain crispiness in products with both high and low sugar contents.
The system offers a tailor-made formulation which is either tapioca- or high amylose-based, “depending on the desired sensory characteristics”. This is used to partially replace flour and native wheat starch.
This will also enable manufacturers to adjust the ‘type’ of crispiness in a product according to consumer demand.
“Our research has shown that several factors influence the perception of crispiness,” said Knight. “… sound (tone and volume), denseness (the size and number of cells in the product structure), initial hardness (the force required to deform, fracture or break for the first time), response to moisture/saliva (speed of moisture uptake, solubility, enzymatic breakdown while chewing) and breakability (how the product fractures once it is bitten).”
A unique selling point
According to Knight, the firm’s understanding of consumers’ perception of what constitutes ‘crispiness’ allows it to adjust product texture in innovative ways and help manufacturers to give their products their own identities.
“[This is ] a means by which manufacturers can achieve a valuable USP [unique selling point] and stand out from competitors in a crowded, cost-conscious marketplace,” she said.
In June the firm opened a ‘Process Innovation Centre’ in Bridgewater, NJ, USA, to complement its technical centre in Hamburg, Germany in order to further its research into consumer perceptions of texture and to investigate the creation and application of new textures.
According to Mintel's Global New Products Database, 12 percent of new products launched in 2006 featured texture claims on the front panel, a 50 percent increase over the previous three years.
Nobody from National Starch Food Innovation was available to explain precisely how the texturing system works in time for publication of this article.
It is unknown whether or not any manufacturers have already begun implementing the system.