Organoleptic qualities such as crispness, crunchiness and spreadability play an important role in attracting consumers to a product, getting them to try it again and making the product a favourite.
Market analyst Food Technology Intelligence argues that if food manufacturers better understand the roles that texture, rheology and mouthfeel play in making a food appealing to consumers, they will be better positioned to create more appealing products.
With this in mind the company has published a new report analysing technical advances aimed at improving food product texture and rheology. This report, Optimising Food Texture and Rheology, is designed to give manufacturers a first-hand look at new techniques and processes that could help them improve the mouthfeel and other characteristics of products.
Numerous innovations are highlighted in the report. For example, it points out that processors can now control lipid crystallisation during texturisation of dairy spreads, and that starch-lipid composites have been shown to improve texture and flavour.
In addition, the report asserts that new techniques such as hydraulic pressure can rapidly tenderise meat.
The processes discussed in the report are under development and have commercial potential. In some cases, researchers have completed development and are looking to license their technology or collaborate in other ways to commercialise a product or technique. Other companies may be looking for partners to help expand applications and markets.
The growth in new food processing innovations comes on the back of a sea-change in consumer expectations. Customers are demanding more appealing products that taste great, function correctly and look appetising all at the same time. And because of the choice on offer these days, consumers are far more fickle.
All this is making the food industry a fairly cut-throat market place. With a myriad of new product introductions each year - many of which are not successful - it is only the more appealing products that can overcome difficult marketplace hurdles.
For these reasons, says Food Technology Intelligence, product developers must consider the impact that organoleptic attributes have on consumer acceptance. This may not be easy. Texture is a composite property related to other physical properties - viscosity and elasticity.
Describing texture or mouthfeel in a single value obtained from an instrument or sensory panel is therefore quite difficult. Mouthfeel is difficult to define because it involves a product's physical and chemical interaction in the mouth from initial perception on the palate, to first bite, through mastication to swallowing.
To this end, the new report attempts to give product developers insight into techniques that improve a product's texture, rheology and mouthfeel. It includes several new developments such as ice-modifying proteins that may help ice cream stay smooth and creamy, enzymatically-modified gluten with better foaming properties and an extruded whey protein meat extender.
All these factors are important criteria when determining a product's quality whether it's fresh or not. When a food produces a hard, soft, crisp or moist feeling in the mouth, we find a basis for measuring its quality. Although organoleptic properties may be significant, they may be one of the least understood properties - something that Food Technology Intelligence argues is still neglected somewhat by product developers.
A copy of this report is available here.