CHICAGO — Creamy turns curdy. Pliable becomes brittle. Smooth gets grainy. Thin thickens and glossy loses its sheen. These are ways the texture of dairy foods may change during shelf life when ingredient interactions, process and even distribution are not carefully considered and monitored during product development.
“Texture is usually the first sensory aspect of a product that people experience after color,” said Jon Hopkinson, senior applications scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kas. “They stir the product. They swirl the product. They see how it clings to the spoon or the side of their glass. They may notice how the product moves in the bottle. They say things like ‘this stuff looks slimy, foamy, watery.’ All of these terms relate to texture.”
Consumers often confuse taste and texture. There are five basic tastes: bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami. These are not to be mistaken with aromas, the flavors processed by olfactory cells in the nose. Together the basic tastes and aromas comprise the flavor of a food. Texture is an entirely different attribute, one that is experienced both by visual cues and mouthfeel.
“Consumers will often say things like ‘this yogurt tastes slimy’ or ‘this milk tastes too thin’ or ‘this buttermilk tastes powdery,’” Mr. Hopkinson said. “Since we experience textural qualities at about the same time as we do taste and aroma, the senses are often confused.”
This is especially true since texture may impact flavor perception. For example, thick systems may slow the diffusion of the flavors and aromas out of products.
“From a product development perspective, early definition of the final product texture is important as it is considered the backbone over how the final product will be built,” said Ivan Gonzales, marketing director for dairy, Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill. “It will help to define the required processing parameters, as well as adjustments in colors and flavors.”
Jeff Pfaff, regional market segment lead for dairy, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis, agreed that defining texture parameters early in the product development cycle is important.
“Many times subtle changes to the formulation and or process can lead to major textural changes in finished product,” he said. “Changes that become evident during shelf life testing can often cause time-consuming project restarts.”
Texture is an important driver for consumer acceptance. This is particularly true of new product launches.
“When new products enter the marketplace where a recognizable texture already exists, it is important that the texture be similar,” said Donna Klockeman, senior principal food scientist, TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md. “The texture of the new product must also be innovative enough to provide market distinction in the eyes of the consumer.”