CHICAGO — Texture is the new color in food and beverage product development, said Lynn Dornblaser, director of insights and innovation at Mintel. Vivid hues have captured consumer attention in recent years, with ingredients such as spirulina and activated charcoal tinting ice cream cones, smoothie bowls and more. Make way for products described as crunchy, flaky or frothy.
“Consumers want to experiment; they want to try new things,” Ms. Dornblaser said at IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago. “They’re looking for those unique textural experiences.”
The use of texture claims in global food and drink launches is rising but still relatively low, she said. A third of global food and drink products with texture claims launched in the past year were described as crunchy, crispy, crusty, brittle or nutty. A fifth were classified as smooth, silky, velvety, creamy or buttery. Other descriptors were soft (11% of launches with a texture claim), carbonated or bubbly (8%) and chewy or gummy (6%).
“For products that make the claim that say something on pack about the texture, consumers are more likely to say they would buy those than products that don’t make a statement about the texture,” Ms. Dornblaser said.
This is especially true for meals and chocolate confectionery, both of which are more likely to feature a broader variety of textures, she noted. Consumers also are more likely to purchase bakery products and breakfast cereals described as crunchy and less likely to purchase dairy products and ice cream described as smooth.
“We also see consumers really being interested in a contrast of textures, having that multi-textural experience,” Ms. Dornblaser said. “Having things be crunchy and smooth, or chewy and creamy or whatever it happens to be.”
Packaged yogurt featuring mix-ins is gaining favor as consumers increasingly seek multiple textures and new experiences. These products are especially popular among 18- to 34-year-olds, Ms. Dornblaser said.
“It feels like a key target market are those younger consumers, and that’s mainly millennials and younger than millennials as well, that Generation Z consumer,” she said.
Food and drink with unusual textures, such as bubble teas at a coffeehouse, are likely to appeal to this demographic, she said.
Healthy ingredients such as nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables may add texture to food and beverages. Recent vegetable innovation such as cauliflower “rice” and zucchini “noodles” add a textured twist to familiar foods.
Unexpected shapes and detailed textures also may enhance the visual appeal of a product or dish.
“There’s a lot of potential to look at a multi-textural experience more than just one texture in a product, to really talk about the mix of textures to make a product more interesting and really elevate that experience,” Ms. Dornblaser said.