PepsiCo digs into the complexity of texture

by Jeff Gelski
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Lay's oven-baked chips, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay
Lay’s Baked potato chips may help PepsiCo hit a 2020 goal of reducing saturated fat in global food brands in key countries by 15% from a 2006 baseline.

CHICAGO — Understanding texture better in baked potato chips and choosing the right variety of pulses for extruded snacks may lead to healthier, higher quality snack formulations overall.

PepsiCo, Inc. is testing texture in various ways, said Hicran Koc, Ph.D., a senior scientist for the company, in a presentation July 17 at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago.

Lay’s Baked potato chips may help PepsiCo hit a 2020 goal of reducing saturated fat in global food brands in key countries by 15% from a 2006 baseline. While Lay’s Baked are 7% fat, Lay’s Classic potato chips are 36% fat, Dr. Hoc said. Yet lower fat products tend to have problems in such areas as oily mouthfeel and moisture absorption.

Hicran Koc, PepsiCo
Hicran Koc, Ph.D., senior scientist for PepsiCo

Texture is another issue and a complex one, more complex than taste or color, she said. To improve the texture of Lay’s Baked and other healthier snacks, PepsiCo researchers are measuring texture from the time when the snack enters the mouth to when it becomes a bolus, or a roundish mass or lump of chewed food that may be swallowed.

PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., is using electromyography to track the jaw and the tongue during chewing. Placing head gear on people allows electromyography to track muscle tissue activity.

The electromyography serves as an example of how PepsiCo uses in vivo methods to test texture. In vitro methods, which might involve a chewing simulator, and in silico methods, which may include a computational model of mastication, are other tools.

People may have different dimensions of jaw bones and different muscle strengths in those bones, Dr. Koc added. The differences will affect their perceptions of texture, as will their age and saliva characteristics.

Texture may be a problem for fabricated baked potato chips, possibly coming with such negative attributes as a lighter bite and a crispiness that goes away quickly, said Matthew J. Yurgec, a technologist on the global applications team for Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill. Yet fabricated baked potato chips tend to be a healthier option. They may contain 2 grams of fat and 110 calories per serving compared with regular potato chips that may contain 10 grams of fat and 150 calories per serving, he said.

Crunchy Cheetos, Crispy Tostitos chips, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay
Companies are providing more texture claims on items, such as crispy, crunchy, creamy or thin.

Companies are providing more texture claims on items, such as crispy, crunchy, creamy or thin, he added.

People perceive a product’s texture differently, Mr. Yurgec said. He divided consumers into four groups: chewers, crunchers, “smooshers” and suckers.

Mr. Yurgec said he considers himself a “smoosher,” explaining that he lets the cereal in the bowl sit in milk to become nice and soft before he eats it. “Smooshers” make up 16% of the population. Suckers make up another 8%.

Ingredion has spent more time on chewers (43% of the population) and crunchers (33%). Chewers are slower eaters and chew less vigorously, Mr. Yurgec said. They are more into classic potato chips. Crunchers are loud eaters, forceful and fast. They like a hard crunch, such as the crunch in kettle chips.

Lay's Kettle-cooked chips,  PepsiCo, Frito-Lay
Crunchers prefer a hard crunch, such as the crunch in kettle chips.

People may bite into snacks with pulse proteins for a healthier option. Pulses such as peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils may be more than 20% fiber and up to 30% protein, but that fiber and protein also will make material behave differently in extruded snacks, said Girish M. Ganjyal, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension food processing specialist at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. Insoluble fiber will disrupt expansion in extruded snacks, he said.

Girish Ganjyal, Washington State University
Girish M. Ganjyal, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension food processing specialist at Washington State University

Dr. Ganjyal said the varieties of pulses vary in how they affect extruded snacks. Washington State University researchers examined six varieties of peas (three yellow and three green). Incorporating a Daytona variety led to nice expansion and a crispier snack, he said. While the Daytona is a green pea, it looks more yellow when extruded.

When working with pulses in extruded snacks, formulators need to decide whether to use whole seed flour, refined flour or fractionates, Dr. Ganjyal said. Working with whole seed flour means dealing with more protein and fiber. 
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