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National Starch sheds new light on role of texture in consumer liking

By Elaine Watson, 08-Sep-2011

Related topics: Carbohydrates and fibers (sugar, starches), Dairy-based ingredients, R&D

A groundbreaking project integrating consumer research with sensory descriptive analysis on yogurts has shed new light on the role texture plays in driving consumer liking, according to National Starch.

The firm’s sensory manager Helen Simpson was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after presenting a poster session at the 9th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium in Toronto earlier this week.

A precise understanding of the relationship between consumer liking (which is often characterized in vague terms such as ‘creaminess’) and quantifiable textural qualities assessed by trained sensory panelists such as spoon indentation, graininess, denseness, surface shine and viscosity, is the key to developing more successful, optimized, products, she said.

This understanding has enabled National Starch to be far more systematic in its approach and has helped customers improve existing products and create new yogurts they can predict with far greater certainty that consumers will like, she said.

We were looking to deeply understand how to build consumer preferred textures.”

Systematic approach

The eight-month project was conducted in three phases. First National Starch conducted a category appraisal by selecting more than 80 yogurts that were grouped into 12 texture categories.

This was followed by blind consumer acceptability tests in four US regions, in which consumers that regularly ate vanilla yogurts were asked to rate texture, flavor, appearance and overall liking.

The findings were then correlated with sensory descriptive analysis of key textural attributes by trained sensory panelists to develop a profile of optimal consumer-preferred texture.

Finally, thelearnings were applied by identifying ingredients and processing parameters that affected texture attributes defined by consumers as driving liking, formulating yogurt prototypes, and then going back and testing them on consumers to validate the approach, said Simpson.

While product formulators were well aware that texture was a key driver of consumer liking, National Starch now had the tools to translate the consumer eating experience of texture into precise, measurable, scientific terms that enabled it to optimize products, she said.

“We can now be far more systematic in our approach. We now have the fundamental building blocks of consumer preferred texture.”

Overall, consumers preferred a texture that was moderately thick, firm, cohesive, and mouth-coating for yogurts, she said.