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

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Texture Analysis of Christmas

Texture Analysis Christmas treeThe festive season is upon us once again; last minute shopping trips, hours spent preparing food, streams of shiny decorations dangle from the doorways and presents are stacked under the Christmas tree. 

However, spare a thought – long before Father Christmas has filled his sack, retailers have stocked their shelves with products that have undergone rigorous quality testing regimes.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Rapid and simple poultry tenderness measurement

Cutting meatOne of the most common issues facing the meat and poultry industries today is an increase in the incidence of tough meat. 

This problem seems to stem from higher consumer demand for increasingly processed products, which in turn forces producers to increase production. To keep pace with market demand, processors have had to evaluate various means of increasing production of boneless meat without negatively affecting overall consumer acceptance. 

Many processing factors are known today to affect the overall tenderness of broiler breast fillets. Tenderness is the most predominant determinant of quality and has been described as the most important sensory characteristic of meat thereby having the greatest impact on consumer acceptability. The need to ensure consumer acceptance and the increased recognition of the importance of tenderness has led to the development of instrumental methods for monitoring meat tenderness.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Never miss a texture analysis moment

Video Capture & Synchronisation System in use Capturing tests on video can be a real advantage to texture analysis users. Events in an experiment can be easily missed by the human eye, whether due to the speed of the test or to the physical structure of the sample; brittle products, for example, break very suddenly.
However, matching up visual and graphical information after a test can be awkward if the data are not synchronised. For example, correlating peaks and troughs on a force-distance-time graph to specific moments in the test can be tricky, even if the video of the experiment is faultless. This is especially the case where a product has an uneven texture or a complex breaking pattern.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Texture Analysis: Is chocolate demoulding an issue for you?

Chocolate moulding image
In today’s chocolate manufacturing, automated equipment has replaced the manual processes which traditionally relied largely on the experience and skill of the chocolatier.

For quality control purposes and hence customer satisfaction it is increasingly important to apply the right processing conditions and controlling parameters, such as the time, the temperature, the moisture content and the relative humidity of the surrounding air.
Researchers at Leeds University have investigated the influences of these factors during the cooling stage of the chocolate manufacturing process to assess the ease of demoulding. Experimental determination of chocolate adhesion to a mould was performed using a fixture specifically developed for this work.  

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Texture Measurement: Testing the Grateness of Cheese

Grating cheese by hand Retail-ready grated cheese is a fast-growing market throughout Europe as the need for convenience and variety continues to dominate.

As a result, cheese which might historically have been offered only in block form must now be able to withstand intense shredding, product transfer and packaging without clogging up machinery. Texture analysis helps dairies evaluate the mechanical properties that will influence not only their product’s mouthfeel, but also processability. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Measuring the noise of bread roll crusts

Bread roll crust testing using the Bread 'V' Squeeze Rig and the Acoustic Envelope Detector Crustiness is an attribute increasingly sought by consumers, who now enjoy an unprecedented range of international bakery products, including baguettes, ciabattas, focaccias and crusty bread rolls.

A dry, crusty outer texture and a crispy sound are an essential part of the eating experience, which can now be measured repeatably and objectively.
Zeelandia, a global bakery ingredients manufacturer, has pioneered an exciting new testing method to determine the crustiness of bakery products using market-leading texture analysis equipment.

Combining Stable Micro Systems’ bread ‘V’ squeeze test with simultaneous acoustic measurements, Zeelandia obtains detailed objective analysis of crust breakage. This enables the company to develop high-performance ingredients that respond to a dynamic and growing sector of the bakery market.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Five recent interesting articles about Texture Analysis

Jelly image So – what is texture analysis?  

It goes without saying that when it comes to food, taste is one of the foremost important factors influencing consumer acceptance. So it makes sense that manufacturers have, for a very long time now, been working to craft and hone the ideal taste for their products.

Manufacturers have also been quick to recognise the importance of other factors, such as health, price and appearance. Some, however, have been far slower to realise the crucial impact of texture. Texture is a food product’s defining factor – getting it wrong can mean rejection by consumers. A product could taste great, have a healthy advantage, and look fantastic, but if the texture doesn’t hit the mark, it just won’t work.

For those who are new to this field of science the following articles give a good introduction in several explanatory styles:

    Food Texture: how important is it? – a fabulous summary written in The Guardian
    Food Texture: IFST Learning Zone ideas for Food Science & Technology Teachers

    How Science Measures Food
    Texture and Mouthfeel: from rheology to tribology and beyond
    Importance of Texture Measurement – Food Product 

Texture: Top of the Agenda
It’s taken time, but the food industry now seems to be really getting to grips with texture’s true potential. This is obvious when you look at the direction in which many food companies are currently moving. With the emphasis strongly on mouthfeel, texturisers of all shapes and sizes are being launched into an already competitive market. And it’s not just about perfecting a specific texture – it’s about creating new ones too.

TA.XTplus Texture Analyser Texture analysis instrumentation has been helping manufacturers to measure and perfect texture for decades, and its scope is continually widening. Texture now tops the agenda; sensory panels are being accompanied by sophisticated instruments that quantify attributes such as stickiness, crunchiness and chewiness.

As the food industry moves forward, texture analysis seems always ready to move with it, offering creative solutions for every need. And with recent advancements including simultaneous force, distance, acoustic and video recordings, we’re sure to see manufacturers and suppliers achieve more great things with texture analysis in the future.

Watch our video about texture analysis  Replicating Consumer Preferences
 Texture Analysis applications

Monday, 28 October 2013

3 new testing solutions to take the drama out of pharma

Typical pharmaceutical capsuleIn one of the most tightly regulated industries across the globe, it goes without saying that quality control sits at the heart of all things pharmaceutical. 

Estimates of the cost of taking a drug to market sit comfortably at the $1 billion mark, with much of this vast spend being pumped into lengthy trials and rigorous analytical tests. Proving the efficacy, quality and safety of a pharmaceutical product to gain 100 per cent confidence and approval for market is, clearly, a significant investment.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues and review the latest innovations designed to help manufacturers overcome them...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Can you measure a squeeze?

Any product designed to be squeezed from a tube or other flexible container by the user must have one essential characteristic – squeezability. 

This might appear obvious; but how can you determine the behaviour of your product and ensure that it meets customer needs? 

Ready-made convenience sauces and condiments are often produced in sachet or tube portions for quick and easy use, as well as to facilitate long-term storage. Removal of the contents relies on the consumer’s ability to squeeze the packaging, and on the consistency of the product, assuming the aperture of the tube / sachet remains constant.

It's not so problematic with the use of a Stable Micro Systems Texture Analyser and, for example, the Sachet/Tube Extrusion Rig, which enables you to quantify the forces needed to propel your product – whether it is a paint, a ketchup, or a conditioner – into the outside world.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Stretching pasta to the limit with texture analysis

Is your pasta up for the stretch test?

Guidelines for pasta cooking times are typically trialled extensively to ensure that consumers can produce ideal results at home. In an age of increasing culinary sophistication and a more discerning consumer, finding a precise solution for creating the preferred ‘al dente’ pasta with the correct degree of tensile strength and extensibility is of paramount importance.

The Noodle/Pasta Loop Tensile Rig allows manufacturers to perfect the formulation of their products with the aid of repeatable, scientific analysis. This, in turn, leads to enhanced customer satisfaction.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Science & Cooking: Harvard profs meet world-class chefs in unique online course

When I saw this course – one that could potentially help Food Scientists understand the science of soft matter – I thought that it should be shared.
Openculture – the best free cultural and educational media on the web – found this course in Harvard, Science and sold it to me with the following summary:

“Put Harvard researchers and world-class chefs together and what do you get? An unexpected combination and a course called Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter. During the past several decades, researchers have pushed the boundaries of soft matter science, a scientific field that looks at how thermal stresses and thermal fluctuations change the physical properties of everyday materials. Naturally this all applies to food and cooking. Hence the premise of the course, which uses cooking to explain fundamental principles in applied physics and engineering.”

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Texture Measurement: How to get out of a sticky dough situation

An important predictor of bread’s finished product quality is the stickiness of dough. 

This particular parameter is notorious in the bakery industry for causing many time delays and much wastage, when not properly controlled. Factors affecting this characteristic include excess water, overworking, too much or too little flour and enzymatic imbalances.

Sticky dough is problematic in bakeries as it causes progressive build-up of dough smears on mixers and rounders, necessitating extra cleaning and leading to waste and unplanned stoppages. Equally, if it is too dry, the dough will not be formed properly by the rounder and the desirable crumb structure cannot be created. 

A very delicate balance must be achieved in order to bind any layers that would otherwise create large holes, while at the same time maintaining a firm product structure. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How to control the feeling of cosmetics

If the current beauty blogs are on trend to predicting next season’s trends, prepare to be dazzled. 

“Bursts of colour, shimmery, smoky, two-tone, chalky, glitter, perfect skin base, glossy, sheer” – all of the above, and more, describe the chameleon of cosmetics products industry experts are urging consumers to add to their make-up artillery. Colloquially known as war paint, make-up’s military connotations are equally applicable to the cosmetic manufacturer. In such a dynamic and crowded arena, contenders need to be fit enough to keep up with the pace of new developments, as well as offer superb quality if they are to fight off the competition.  

The quality and appeal of cosmetic products is judged by factors such as texture, appearance, odour and performance. Accurate and consistent analysis of texture provides manufacturers with vital information on the right combination of ingredients, as well as the most suitable manufacturing methods to achieve the desired result.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Secret of Sausages – Shear Genius

As consumers become increasingly aware of the links between nutrition and health, many traditional food products are experiencing poor sales growth or even decline. 

Sausage on a forkFamily favourites that are high in fat or sugar are being conscientiously replaced with innovative new products that boast a healthy banner. Sausages, in particular, have suffered bad press thanks to their high saturated fat content. As a result, manufacturers have been searching for ways to increase the appeal of their sausage products and move away from the negative image that surrounds them. 

Over the past few years, new varieties of sausage have appeared on supermarket shelves boasting reduced fat content and lower salt levels for the more health-conscious consumer. When something is removed from the normal composition of a product, however, its taste and texture is inevitably altered and the standard of the end product is at risk. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Does your bread have bounce?

When searching for the perfect loaf, freshness is number one on the shopper’s agenda.

The springiness of a loaf is something that consumers will universally assess when choosing which one to buy.  This often directly correlates to how soft and springy the finished bread is. The springier the loaf is, the fresher it is perceived to be. 

It would seem impossible to quantify accurately something that may seem so subjective, but advances in physical characterisation technology have enabled manufacturers to monitor even this – the most crucial assessment of all.

One of the most common ways to test the softness of a loaf is by squeezing it between the thumb and fingers, creating a ‘V’ shape with the hand. Stable Micro Systems’ Bread V Squeeze rig imitates this process and allows manufacturers to carry out repeatable, scientific analysis of the freshness and appeal of their bread.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

How strong is your hair?

Is it strong enough to take the place of horse-hair in string instruments?

Hair straightenersTo demonstrate the deep conditioning power of Unilever’s Cream Silk Hair Fall Defense conditioner (which purports to strengthen your locks), they gave their advertising agency a brief: ‘What if human hair was so strong, it could do anything?’ The advertising stunt that resulted was a huge hit for its novelty value – the horse hair traditionally used on violin bows was replaced with human hair treated by Unilever's Cream Silk conditioner.

The world’s first human hair quartet was created, staging a one-of-a-kind violin concert played by a popular Filipina violin quartet who put the bespoke bows to the test at one of Manila’s busiest shopping malls. 

The campaign marks a unique departure from traditional hair product ads that rely on tried and familiar visuals of a model tossing, brushing or tugging her luxurious mane to demonstrate the product’s benefits. The ad agency wanted to bring to life the promise of strong hair in an entertaining, engaging manner that hadn’t been seen before.

“We’ve wanted to do something different for the hair category for a long time, something out-of-the-box. Hair Quartet was brilliant, because it was a fresh new take on a simple product demonstration that really leveraged the power of a live performance,” said Sze Tian Poh, Southeast Asia and Australasia Vice President, Hair, at Unilever.

TA.XTplus texture analyser with Hair Combing Rig
According to a news release, about 600 gathered to watch the "human hair quartet" show as virtuosos provided a tress test that culminated in a 40-song, 4-set, 240-minute concert at a busy shopping mall in Manila. Not a strand was broken! Now that's sweet music to the advertiser

Watch this amazing performance 

If you’re looking to measure the tensile strength of hair or substantiate any hair care product claims then a Texture Analyser will provide the essential tool to deliver objective physical property measurement.

Plenty of people play with their hair, but who knew it could make such sweet music?

Watch our video about testing of hair and hair products Download a published article covering methods for the testing of hair and hair products Browse our range of hair and hair product testing solutions

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Let us help you out of a sticky situation with texture measurement

When was the last time you found a sweet or candy in your pocket or at the bottom of your backpack and were delighted to find this little piece of sweet treat wrapped for your convenience?

A large proportion of boiled sweets and chewy candies are presented in individually wrapped pieces, due to their adhesive nature. The wrapping must be of a unique, non-stick quality to allow it to contain and protect the product, without being problematic to remove.
Materials that adhere firmly to the product may split and tear on removal – leading to consumer frustration. But how are confectionery manufacturers supposed to assess their products to avoid this sticky situation?

What's the testing solution?

The Wrapper Release test provides an accurate analysis of the effort required for consumers in the removal of confectionery wrapping. The rig, used in conjunction with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, incorporates a multi-slot plate and a clamping fixture. A large, rectangular sample of the confectionery product is placed on the underside of the multi-slot plate, while the wrapping material is attached to the upper fixture.

During the test, the arm of the texture analyser brings the attached wrapping material down into each hole so that the wrapper repeatedly contacts and withdraws from the product. The maximum force required to withdraw from the product is recorded, providing a measure of the adhesiveness of the material to the confectionery. For optimum performance, as low a force as possible would be the objective.

Using the results obtained, manufacturers can identify any issues with current or proposed wrapping materials and select or alter these materials to provide an effortless consumer experience.

Any other sticky issues?

The Wrapper Release rig is just one solution for the assessment of adhesiveness of products. Other tests include the measurement of peel strength, extrudability, hardness, elongation and ‘quick stick’ of products, such as labels, sealants, tapes and pastes.

Watch our video about texture analysis of confectionery products Download a published article covering methods for the testing of confectionery Browse our range of confectionery product testing solutions

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Easy Cheesy

Pizza slice with molten cheese

There are thousands of cheeses from different regions around the world, all with varying tastes and textures – that’s what makes them so appealing! 

It’s not just the taste that matters though; the texture has to be just right for today’s more discerning consumer – and extensibility or stretchability has a direct effect on a cheese’s success in the market. Who, for example, wants a pizza covered in hard cheese rather than the more appetising, melt in the mouth, stringy option?

That’s why we developed our cheese extensibility rig – to avoid cheesy product disasters! We all love a bit of cheese and the rig can be used for all types of stretchy molten cheese.

This helps manufacturers continually introduce and improve their cheeses – something we can all get excited about!

Cheese extensibility rig on the TA.XTplys Texture Analyser
In a world where taste and texture are everything, it’s vital that cheesy products hit the spot. Pulling the pizza away from your mouth and leaving behind a trail of molten, herby cheese is all part of the experience – and we wouldn’t want it any other way! If your cheese isn’t the stretchiest, stringiest or gooiest in the market, it may be time to rethink your testing strategy!

Now, who’s hungry?

Want to know more?

Contact us to find out how texture analysis can help you in your quest for the perfect range of dairy products.

Watch our video about texture analysis of dairy products  Testing what varies in Dairy
Browse our range of dairy product testing solutions

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Why Texture Analysis Matters in Food Production

Welcome to the new Stable Micro Systems blog! This new digital resource will keep you up to date with the latest trends, news and insights from the world of texture analysis. Whether you’re new to the science or a long-term user of texture analysis equipment, we’ll ensure there’s plenty of material, regularly updated, to keep you informed, trigger discussions and spark inspiration.

This week we’re looking at the role of texture analysis in food manufacturing – Stable Micro Systems’ biggest market. Why do almost all the world’s major food producers employ texture analysis, and what benefits does it bring? 

Find out here.... 

Giving consumers exactly what they want  

Today’s consumers want it all, demanding a wide choice of foods that not only taste good, but delight all the senses. Potato crisps with a satisfying crunch, luxuriously creamy yoghurts – since the 1950s, manufacturers have seen the critical role texture plays in the eating experience. Human taste tests increasingly evaluated texture as well as flavour. Despite giving much better insight into overall enjoyment of food, these tests had their limitations. They were (and still are) subjective, time-consuming and difficult to repeat or compare.

Fast, reliable, invaluable

And that’s where texture analysis instrumentation comes in. Originally introduced around thirty years ago, it provides manufacturers with a quick, objective, detailed and repeatable profile of a product’s texture. Testing in this way is invaluable for both R&D and quality control, so is today being used by major food manufacturers all over the world to complement and enhance human taste tests. Across numerous sectors of the food industry (as well as non-food applications), texture analysis has rapidly become a vital tool in the armoury of food scientists, development teams and QC managers worldwide.

Want to know more?  

Contact us to find out how texture analysis can help you define the perfect mouthfeel for your food product.

Watch our video about texture analysis Download more detailed information about texture analysis in the food industry Browse our range of texture analysis testing solutions