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It’s crinchy, but is it flumpy? The evolution of Texicon, the language of texture from National Starch

By Elaine Watson , 21-Sep-2011

Texicon: The new lingua franca for texture?
Texicon: The new lingua franca for texture?

National Starch’s mission to analyze texture as systematically as flavor in the product development process has moved into a new phase with the global roll-out of its Texicon food texture language across high and low moisture systems.

While novel terms such as ‘crinchy’ (between crunchy and crispy) and ‘flumpy’ (a characteristic of mayonnaise as it is spooned from the jar) feature in the Texicon lexicon, most of the words in it were pretty standard, said global head of development Joe Light.

What made Texicon special was its ability to bridge the gap between consumer texture terminology – which is notoriously imprecise - and the exact, measurable, scientific terms understood by trained sensory panelists, he said.

For example, said sensory manager Helen Simpson: “We now know that what a consumer calls ‘creamy’ is actually a multifaceted texture experience that results from differing intensities of at least 15 sensory and rheology attributes, such as mouth coating, meltaway and oral viscosity.”

After successfully adopting Texicon in the yogurt category, National Starch had since developed detailed 'texture maps' for everything from salad dressings to snacks, sour cream and gluten-free products that linked quantifiable textural attributes with more vague, nebulous terms (creamy, crunchy) that consumers typically cite when asked about texture, she said.

Comprehensive global language

This allowed the firm - now part of Corn Products International - to adopt a much more systematic approach to optimizing texture and helped customers bring products to market more quickly, said Light, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA from the International Dairy Show in Atlanta earlier this week.

He added: “We have been developing and testing Texicon for several years, and now we have a comprehensive language that covers both high- and low-moisture systems that is being used on a global basis as a foundational tool in our proprietary texture optimization process [DIAL-IN texture technology].”

Texture maps

Using this approach with clam chowder for example, revealed that consumers wanted a particular level of creaminess and viscosity, but a sustained meltaway, added senior manager, texture, Suzanne Mutz-Darwell.

They want it to be creamy and thick to coat the mouth, but they don’t want it to stick in their throat; when it melts, it has to go.”

The texture maps had also helped customers benchmark their products and manipulate recipes or processes in order to move to a more desirable position on the map.

This had proved particularly effective for firms looking to reduce fat or sugar without negatively impacting texture and had also deepened understanding of the relationship between flavor and texture, she added.

We know that texture can impact flavor release, for example.”

Texture and flavor

National Starch has also invested heavily in equipment enabling it to evaluate food texture attributes from viscosity to gel strength and swelling volume in record time at its Texture Center of Excellence in Bridgewater, New Jersey, said Light.

Historically, he said, sensory analysis has focused on codifying flavor. By applying an equally systematic approach to texture, National Starch had brought all the pieces of the jigsaw together and stolen a march on the competition, he claimed.

“We have now worked with customers on several projects that leverage these capabilities and it really is groundbreaking. We have invested significantly in this.”

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