A feel for texture: Responding to clean label demands creates formulation challenges, suppliers say

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27 Nov 2018 --- Texture is an important and sometimes understated area of development in the food and beverage industry. But more and more consumers are interested in how a product “feels,” as well as tastes when it comes to eating experiences. While many consumers are demanding simpler ingredient labels, they are not willing to sacrifice on the eating experience itself, and more demands are being seen across the board which relates to clean label textures, in categories such as beverages, dairy, soups and sauces, to name a few.

84 percent of consumers are more likely to buy food products that contain ingredients they understand or recognize, that is according to an Innova Market Research, Trend Report (2018). Consumers also feel reassured when they see familiar, kitchen cupboard ingredients such as corn starch on the ingredient statement of their favorite products, says Dr. Judy Whaley, SVP, Global R&D, at Tate & Lyle.

Clean-label texturants are one of the most prominent trends we see in the market, claims Dr. Whaley. In the last seven years, new product launches with clean label claims grew globally by 13.2 percent, exceeding the number of total launches which grew at the rate of 8.6 percent, according to Innova Market Insights data. 

For Tate & Lyle, clean-label has been especially prevalent within the dairy category. “In North America, for example, a third of new yogurt products launched in 2017 were clean- label, and clean-label spoonable yogurt product launches in Asia saw a 40 percent increase from 2015 to 2017,” she notes.

Click to EnlargeHowever, dairy products are one of the most challenging food categories to formulate for clean-label for a number of reasons, reveals Dr. Whaley. “Many dairy products are lightly flavored and white in color, and so any contributions from the non-dairy ingredients to the flavor and color can be more apparent. Additionally, many dairy products undergo rather harsh processing including pasteurization and homogenization units through which the texturizing ingredients must retain their functionality and then maintain that functionality under refrigerated storage conditions,” she continues. “The combination of harsh processing, low-temperature storage, and end-product expectations regarding flavor and taste provide a unique, but challenging area to develop clean-label solutions.” 

Tate & Lyle has expanded its line of CLARIA Functional Clean-Label Starches, to include cook-up and instant starches that help food manufacturers meet consumer demands for cleaner-labels without having to make trade-offs in taste, texture,  and performance. 

“CLARIA Functional Clean-Label Starches label simply as corn starch or tapioca starch,” says Dr. Whaley. “While also enabling manufacturers to formulate with the functionality similar to a modified starch while delivering the neutral color and taste desirable in a clean-label product.”

Choosing the right texturant can be a lengthy and challenging process, according to Dr. Whaley, as it requires time-consuming and costly research to understand how other components of the formula influence texturants. “To address this challenge, we developed TEXTURE-VANTAGE Expert Systems, a suite of design tools, to help take the guesswork out of common, and not so common, formulation challenges. TEXTURE-VANTAGE tools are designed to predict ingredient, application and sensory performance and reduce development time.”

“As we move into 2019, we are excited to continue to expand our tools to provide additional formulation maps and solutions for challenges faced by food developers. We are also pleased to have just expanded one of our TEXTURE-VANTAGE tools, Texture University, to our external partners in 2019,” says Dr. Whaley.

There are a number of ways that texture and taste can interact. Most commonly, when texture properties such as the thickness of a sauce or soup increase, you can often have the perception that flavor impact is decreasing, says Dr. Rachel Wicklund, Senior Manager, Global Ingredient Technology, Food & Beverage Solutions at Tate & Lyle.  

“One of the main benefits of working with starch, which is the most common ingredient used in texture formulation design, is that you can predict textural changes and adjust your formulation as needed. For example, to create a lighter texture, it is important to know the extent to which the ingredients used to achieve this will increase the thickness of the product and then use the requisite additional flavors to minimize formulation time and reach the optimal formula faster,” Dr. Wicklund explains to FoodIngredientsFirst.

“At Tate & Lyle, we understand the whole texture profile and can change those attributes so we can recommend to our formulators how to make those adjustments,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Ulrick and Short believe that the application areas experiencing the most innovation in textures are the new and emerging sectors, says Robert Lambert, from Marketing & Communications. 

“Although the vegan and gluten-free markets have been around for a number of years now, they’re still very much in their infancy, and there is still a lot of untapped potential,” claims Lambert. Click to Enlarge

“For instance in the vegan market, there is a lot of R&D going into mimicking the textural properties of meat, but also as consumer attitudes shift with the growing buying power of the millennial generational, the idea of new ‘eating experiences’ is becoming more popular. Even in more traditional areas, such as bakery, the explosion of free from, alternative proteins, pulses and grains even in ‘conventional’ products shows how quickly consumer attitudes are changing.” 

There is also a second aspect to texture innovation that is not directly apparent to consumers, according to Lambert. “This is more of a back-end approach but is, in fact, more important for manufacturers. This is based on matching textural properties with other ingredients to improve nutritional profiles or remove allergens are removed or replaced.”

Sugar, fat and egg all have massive textural impacts within recipes all are actively being removed for one reason or another – it’s no easy thing to replace these when the consumer already has a preconceived expectation of the product, says. “What makes this even more challenging is that the 2018 consumer has higher expectations of these fat/sugar/egg reduced products than ever before – a prime example of this being the vegan trend. Veganism is now so popular that there is an expectation amongst consumers that the vegan product is similar (if not the same) as the standard,” he affirms. 

“Our latest product, ovaprox V is the first total egg replacement solution we have developed,” Lambert notes. “It allows manufacturers to produce vegan bakery goods such as muffins, cakes and pancakes with minimal impact on volume and texture – they are genuine alternatives to standard bakery products,”  

The texture of a food product is a key characteristic of any NPD. When developing a new ingredient to improve or mimic textures, it is essential to both prove this in practical applications, but also to back it up with evidence, claims Lambert. “That is why all of our products are rigorously tested in our R&D kitchen and lab facilities with texture analytical equipment to prove their impact quantitively.” 

“With the growth of new sectors and the demand for new eating experiences, the opportunity for both: more, unconventional textures; and also ingredients to mimic conventional textures will continue to grow.” 

“There will also likely be opportunities in cross-sector collaborations,” he adds. 

What’s next?

Texture processing and innovation is a key area for the F&B industry. With consumers seeking for cleaner and more straightforward labels, without compromising on taste, texture will remain at the forefront of innovation. We can expect to see more claims on packaging relating to texture and clean label and much more on the innovations starch, particularly in dairy, desserts, soups, sauces and protein. 

By Elizabeth Green

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