How to measure and analyse the texture of food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and adhesives.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Scoop on Ice Cream Testing

Ice cream scoopThis summer while waiting in line at your local ice cream parlour, you may have a lot to ponder.

Do you want ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt or sorbet? Will you choose a cone or a bowl? What about sprinkles, nuts or chocolate sauce? 

Back in the lab, ice cream manufacturers also have a lot to ponder when developing, testing, and reformulating their products.

Using a Texture Analyser, it’s possible to measure several textural properties of ice cream as well as the syrups, sauces, and inclusions that are added for enhanced consumer novelty or experience.
In terms of volume, ice cream is by far the largest frozen snack food item consumed in the frozen state in the West.

During its market growth, it has been transformed from a very high-class, expensive almost all-dairy product into an adequate, largely non-dairy but much cheaper and still very attractive version.

Ice cream is a very versatile material that in its first stage of freezing can be manufactured into layers; extruded; mixed with fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.; sculpted; portioned; enrobed; topped; and dealt with in innumerable ways before eventually being set (i.e. hard frozen) into a quite hard form. 

So we have gateaux consisting of, or including, ice cream competing with ordinary cakes. Consistency can vary from soft and pliable to rigid and glassy. Fluidity, chewiness, body, and bite resistance are sensory properties associated with this continuous phase of the ice cream.

An ice cream that is to be mass-marketed has to include ingredients that have to maximise the product's shelf life while also maintaining mouthfeel, stability and texture.  

Considerations that a manufacturer will often have to make are, in turn, based around the costs and functionality of using particular types of ingredients, as well as consumer concepts and marketing of the actual product. 

An example of this has been in the plethora of reduced fat and premium products available in the market. Such products will often require different ingredients within the ice cream mix as well as differing forms of formulation from the mainstream brands. The fat lowers the tendency of the ice cream to melt and will also affect hardness and scoopability. 

Introduction of a fat mimetic can contribute serious textural problems. Reduced solids in low-fat ice cream mix can cause the ice cream to become too hard, difficult to scoop and possess a coarse texture.

What’s the testing solution for ice cream?
While there are many different kinds and flavours of ice cream, it’s important to distinguish between two types: those with particulates, e.g. cookie dough pieces, chocolate chips, fruit chunks, and those without. When testing a uniform ice cream such as French vanilla or plain chocolate, we recommend using a knife blade so that the probe can go deeply into the product containers without the need for any sample preparation.

Ice Cream Scoop test
Alternatively, the Ice Cream Scoop Rig (A/ICS) is used to measure the scooping resistance of ice cream, and other similar samples which can be formed into a self-supporting block. A tilt-table is mounted on to the base of the Texture Analyser and the scoop positioned onto the load cell.

A 12cm x 40cm sample is attached to the tilt-table by means of four spikes and the scoop extension distance adjusted to remove an appropriate quantity of the sample. The force is measured as a response to the scraping action of the scoop and used as an indicator of the ease with which a consumer might remove an ice cream portion from the sample mass.

Quantifying the firmness/hardness of ice cream containing particulates can be challenging. The number, size, shape, and distribution of particulates are usually randomly distributed within each container. 

Multiple Puncture Probe test on soft ice cream
Multiple Puncture Probe test
on soft ice cream
While it is relatively easy to quantify the firmness of the ice cream matrix on its own using standard penetration probes, it doesn’t work as well on some of our favourite flavours such as mint chip and cookie dough. In this instance we recommend a Multiple Puncture Probe for testing ice cream with particulates. The use of a multiple puncture probe for a non-uniform sample offers increased reproducibility over single puncture probes.

Don’t forget the cone
A Texture Analyser is perfect for testing various properties of ice cream, but did you also know that you can test the cone too? Measuring key textural parameters such as brittleness, toughness and crispiness, our new Ice Cream Cone Support Rig reliably informs cone formulation and design, for optimum consumer acceptance and product success. 

Ice Cream Cone Support Rig test in progress
The Ice Cream Cone Support Rig
A cone strength test using the new support rig on the TA.XTplus texture analyser measures the force required to cause breakage by simulating the stress imposed when ice cream is pressed into the cone. The resulting textural profile, generated through Exponent software, will highlight any weaknesses and consequent need to review ingredient proportions, formulation or cone dimensions.   

Ice cream remains a popular treat and a competitive sector, particularly during the summer season. As well as satisfying consumer demands for taste and texture, ice cream cone manufacturers should also consider the role of structural strength in the safe handling, shipping and distribution of cones.  

The Ice Cream Cone Support Rig is a valuable tool with which to assess textural characteristics of ice cream cones, helping manufacturers refine their batter recipes and tailor cone designs for ultimate taste and durability.
Typical Thermal Cabinet setup
Typical Thermal Cabinet setup

A Community Registered Design, the Rig can be adjusted to accommodate all cone varieties, including waffle, flat-bottomed and sugar cones, and is supplied with two ice cream scoop simulators for use with varying cone rim diameters.

Keeping your cool: temperature measurement options

With ice cream testing, it’s important to minimise temperature differences. An excellent method of controlling temperature during testing is available via a thermal cabinets. Thermal cabinets solve the problems usually associated with the testing of hot and cold products such as molten cheese, ice cream, adhesives or waxes. Samples can be allowed to equilibrate to the required temperature before testing is performed within the cabinet. 

Other methods of managing temperature differences between samples include removing the samples from frozen storage just prior to testing and using larger sized samples and deep penetration to your advantage.

Why not visit the Confectionery Testing page of our website...

For more information on how to measure texture, please visit the Texture Analysis Properties section on our website.

TA.XTplus texture analyser with bloom jar The
TA.XTplus texture analyser is part of a family of texture analysis instruments and equipment from Stable Micro Systems. An extensive portfolio of specialist attachments is available to measure and analyse the textural properties of a huge range of food products. Our technical experts can also custom design instrument fixtures according to individual specifications.

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