Innovating With Texture: Insights From CP Kelco

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

While flavor and formula typically receive the most attention from food formulators, it’s texture that’s on trend in product development today. Whether it’s duplicating the frothy foaminess of a coffee shop concoction or doing the unthinkable—shaking up carbonated soft drinks to create a gel, texture is making a splash in beverages. Unique texture combos are invading the snack aisle as well, from the savory (sophisticated gummies in Asia-Pacific) to the sweet (multi-layer, creamy and crunchy dessert indulgences in Europe).

Consumers—especially young adults—seek multisensory taste experiences,” said Cara Zhuang, Sr. Manager, Asia Pacific Marketing at CP Kelco. “In regions around the world, people want products that are not only nutritious but exciting,” she added. “The goal becomes ‘how can I capture multiple taste sensations in one bite or sip?’ Texture helps to create the unique experiences they crave… the kind they even want to photograph and share.”

What’s Behind The Trend?

To understand the innovation trend in texture, it helps to take a big-picture look into its origins and development. We’ve come up with a list of possible reasons why everyone is talking about texture:

Reduce sugar and fat, add texture back. Sugar reduction has become one of the most discussed topics in the APAC food and beverage industry. Globally, it’s not only a health goal but an economic issue too. Consider the number of countries in the region that have implemented sugar taxes so far, as well as the number of companies that have pledged to voluntarily reduce sugar in their products. However, removing sugar and fat can have a major impact on product texture. Formulators know that it takes considerable texture expertise to create reduced-sugar and reduced-fat versions comparable to the original. “When you take out sugar or switch to a different sweetener, you need to add something else to make up for it,” said Ms. Zhuang. “Formulators know that sugar not only provides taste but a lot of body and texture. When removing or reducing sugar, you need to add an ingredient such as pectin in your formulation. This can help build back mouthfeel in some applications and even help to mask some of the bitter notes from substitute sweeteners,” she added.

Coming clean: Consumer interest in clean label foods and beverages is also having an impact on ingredient choices to address texture needs. For formulators, this means looking for new, nature-based texturizing solutions. Versatile, innovative texturants, such as gellan gum, pectin and citrus fiber, have become go-to solutions in the clean label toolbox of many formulators.

Reformulating: You can teach an old dog new tricks. Reformulating products with innovative texture approaches is breathing new life into older products. In North America, handheld soups have always been a great convenience but now they’re being reinvented with thicker, creamier textures. And, in a hyper-competitive market like Japan, where 1,000 new beverages are launched every year, innovation is everything. In addition to novelty drinks, formulators are enriching classic beverages with new flavors, adding fiber and testing variations on mouthfeel.

More protein, please. As the health halo around protein continues, demand is building. Consumers and manufacturers are actively seeking out solutions beyond meat, dairy and eggs. In fact, plant-based product claims have increased by 62 percent globally (2013-2017), according to Innova Market Insights data. However, plant proteins tend not to have the clean flavor profile of dairy protein. Adjustments need to be made to compensate for “beany” or “earthy” taste and grittiness – even color and particle size. Stability can also be difficult when you can’t count on the proteins to recreate the functionality of dairy protein. In acidic (low pH) beverages, plant-based proteins aren’t soluble. Hydrocolloids, such as gellan gum and pectin can create the necessary suspension of insoluble proteins and calcium. Then, there are a number of ways in which texture and taste interact in a product. When a formulator is trying to increase thickness – say in a drinking yogurt – it can seem as if the flavor is decreasing. Hydrocolloids can mask the flavor of plant proteins and provide a smooth, creamy texture.

Dairy contrary. Nut, soy, oat and other grain-based beverages are providing consumers with lots of options. But this new breed of plant-based dairy alternatives also adds new texture challenges. The products must live up to consumers’ expectations of a familiar dairy beverage experience. How can companies increase viscosity and mouthfeel in plant-based “milks” to resemble the richness of whole dairy milk? And are shelf-stable versions worthy to challenge the traditional Indian dairy diet?

Keeping us in suspense. Suspended inclusions are popping up everywhere nowadays. From herbs in salad dressing to edible glitter in frosting, we see these creative formulations in a wide range of products. Regionally, boba balls in dessert drinks have been popular, as have fruit and cereal in drinking yogurt. While some are just for fun, other textural elements, like the fruit and cereal pieces, aloe vera and nata de coco, add flavor and can even raise a product’s health profile.

You see, when it comes to innovation, texture just may become a product formulator’s new best friend.