Texture Innovation: Whetting Appetites Across The Region

Friday, October 9th, 2020

Is it possible to add an element of indulgence to your food products and save money at the same time? Yes, there are ways to modify your formula to save money while delivering an extra special experience for consumers. By CP Kelco. 

According to a 2019 Innova Market Insights global survey, consumers believe that texture gives food and beverages “a more interesting experience.” For example, 78 percent of consumers in India and 71 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed said that “texture claims in food and drinks influence my purchase decision.” 

When you think about it, a consumer’s first impression of your product is probably based more on its texture than its taste. Is the texture inviting enough? How much should this influence your product development? Let’s examine the role of texture in the food and beverage experience and how it fits into some of the top, consumer-driven megatrends.


Texture’s Connection To Clean-Label

As the clean-label megatrend continues, texture has become an important consideration. According to our internal experts, we know that government taxation is driving sugar reduction in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. In addition to a pricing issue, it has become a global health goal. However, if you’re trying to satisfy a sweet tooth while also reducing sugar in your formulation, it can have an impact on texture. Its role is so essential in baking that the bond between sugar and water helps to lock in moisture, so cakes, brownies and frostings stay soft and don’t dry out. 

The impact is probably greatest in the beverage industry, which has been both a target and a leader in the efforts to reduce sugar consumption. Just as with baked goods, sugar adds more than sweetness. It adds flavour, texture and even body to beverages that’s hard to duplicate with sugar substitutes. Many alternatives can leave an aftertaste that must be compensated for as well. It’s important for formulators to manage the changed mouthfeel and texture when reducing sugar. Depending on the formulation, a nature-based ingredient such as pectin or gellan gum can help by binding liquid, increasing richness and improving the perception of a full-sugar mouthfeel.

We also see more product developers asking about texture alternatives to gelatin for their formulations. This can be due to gelatin supply issues, costs or addressing a consumer diet preference for more vegan products. In several categories, such as confectionery and desserts, there are alternatives. Pectin can help you achieve a gelatin-like texture in gummy candy. As a bonus, it’s also less likely to melt in warmer Asia Pacific climates. In neutral pH dairy and plant-based dairy alternative desserts, there is a pectin grade available to help you create beautiful, gelatin-like textures. 

Another trend connected to clean-label is the rise of plant proteins. Consumer demand for more protein has led to the use of new and novel sources. Due to concerns about sustainability, the environment and animal products, brands have turned to soya, almond, coconut, pea and many other plant bases. However, dealing with plant protein requires texture finesse. Protein powders can be difficult to hydrate and sensitive to heat. Consumers are keen to try vegan versions of their favourite products, such as plant-based dairy alternatives, but only if the texture mimics the traditional dairy version. However, a formulator shouldn’t have to choose between clean-label and texture. 

Innovative gellan gum is a great choice because it provides suspension regardless of protein type or protein level, so you don’t have to worry about unsightly separation or sediment ruining your texture goals. It also contributes to a clean, pleasant mouthfeel in neutral pH protein beverages.


Texture Influences Mouthfeel Preferences

Mouthfeel is a critical part of the food and beverage experience. In working with brands across the region, we have seen how mouthfeel preferences vary from country to country. For example, in Southeast Asia and Korea, our experts say that thinner mouthfeel is a priority in beverages. In India, consumers prefer a thick and rich mouthfeel in beverages such as lassi, mango drinks and flavoured milk. They view it as “healthier” and containing more fruit or protein. 

According to our internal experts in the region, shelf stability has become a very desirable trait. This could be due to a variety of reasons, ranging from cold chain shipping challenges to consumers ordering more beverage products online and not wanting to make as many trips to the store. Maintaining texture in a product with a longer shelf life can be a challenge for formulators. In China, we know that ambient drinking yoghurts have evolved from having very thick textures to drinkable, pourable beverages in upscale packaging. In Australia, new textures in ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages are meant to provide a café-type experience anytime. To help, CP Kelco has a new grade of gellan gum available that was developed in response to the increased demand for shelf-stable yoghurt drinks. This solution provides outstanding syneresis control, mouthfeel and structure as it stands up to harsh processing conditions, high heat and shear. 


Texture Adds A Sense Of Adventure

A main factor influencing purchasing decisions, especially in younger consumers, is the idea of adventure. Texture is a great way to differentiate your product and appeal to these food explorers. An innovative approach can also breathe new life into legacy products or lead to a completely new line extension. In the Middle East and Asia, our internal experts tell us that brands are reinventing conventional energy drinks as fun, concentrated, drinkable jellies.

There is a desire today to create a product that is photogenic—one that might encourage consumers to take a picture and post it, possibly leading to a social media moment for your brand. In a competitive segment, playing with suspension and fun textures can make your product stand out, whether it’s a drinkable jelly or a coconut water with inclusions.


Modifying Texture For Cost Benefits

Is it possible to add indulgence and save money at the same time? Yes, there are ways to modify your formula to save money while delivering an extra special experience for consumers. For example, our internal experts in India note how adding a bit more texture has allowed some manufacturers to reduce the actual fruit pulp content in their fruit drinks and still provide a satisfying mouthfeel where fruit flavours shine. This can be accomplished with pectin or citrus fibre. Their nature-based origin of citrus peels is a real plus for fruit-flavoured drinks. Citrus fibre also provides the bonus of adding to daily fibre intake as well.

Pillowy, foamy and mousse-like textures can also give beverages and snacks an indulgent, dessert-like feel. This can be accomplished by whipping more air into a recipe. Dalgona coffee is one good example of a successful texture modification. The drink that started in South Korea and spread by social media is popular worldwide now. It has spawned a whipped foam texture trend to rival coffee shop baristas, yet consumers can enjoy it anywhere. The same idea can be applied to create dessert-style yoghurts, either dairy or plant-based, which we see are gaining in popularity as consumers increasingly turn to dairy as a snack. 

We believe that texture will continue to be a big theme in the years to come, especially as the plant-based and clean-label trends evolve. Want more texture tips from our technical experts? Whether you want to overcome mouthfeel challenges, reduce costs or reformulate to meet clean-label goals, we’re here to help. Please visit cpkelco.com


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