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

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Using Texture Analysis in the Development of Healthy Snacks for Kids

Healthy snack with school books
With the problem of childhood obesity capturing headlines as never before, many parents are looking critically at their children’s diets, giving greater attention to factors such as fat and sugar content when choosing breakfast options, packing lunches and planning dinners. 

But while many parents try to help their kids choose healthier between-meal snacks, they tend to do so with a focus on minimising the negative (fat and sugars), but overlook the opportunity to increase the positive (protein, fibre and other nutrients).

The chief concern is that most snack foods designed to appeal to children tend to deliver plenty of carbohydrates, fats and sugar, but fall short on delivery of vitamins, minerals and fibre. At best, this is a missed opportunity in the area of child nutrition.

For many parents, the reason for giving kids a snack is to stave off their hunger until meal time. Because the majority of snack-time foods offer little in the way of protein and fibre, they are not able to deliver the desired satiety effects, leading kids to crave additional snacks to tide them over until the next meal.

The key to moderating children's snack calories lies in developing snacks that appeal to young people that are more satisfying. This can be accomplished by increasing nutrient density, or in other words, the ratio of essential nutrients to calories. In general, it is well accepted that our diets are increasingly rich in energy (calories), but poor in nutrients. Certainly, when it comes to snack foods, too few of those designed for children offer nutrient density in the form of protein and fibre. 

Both of these necessary components for health and growth also can contribute to a feeling of satiety. Offering snacks that provide greater satiety by way of higher protein and fibre content may help reduce overall energy intake, thereby making a significant impact on lowering the proportion of empty calories in children’s diets. Numerous research studies have confirmed that protein is more satiating than either carbohydrates or fat, making it a key player in weight maintenance and weight loss efforts.

Few people, at any age, get as much fibre in their daily diet as experts recommend. Vegetable protein may be the best choice for enhancing snack foods, offering the added advantages of greater affordability and lower environmental impact compared to animal based proteins. 

As a source of both protein and fibre, soy may be the front runner for replacing empty snack calories. For starters, soy protein is the only complete source of vegetable protein widely available, and it delivers the essential amino acids in appropriate amounts for supporting growth and development. It is low in saturated fat, adds no cholesterol, is lactose-free and works within a vegetarian diet. Many products containing soy protein can also be fortified with the shortfall nutrients, fibre, vitamin D, calcium and potassium.

Most of us lose sight of just how much our own children rely on snacks to feel satisfied. Many children over-consume energy every day because too many of the calories they consume deliver too little nutritional substance.

Testing of energy bar using a 3 point bend rig
Testing of energy bar using
a 3 point bend rig
Developing snack options that offer more protein and fibre can help children meet their nutritional goals for the day, while providing peace of mind for parents. Because protein and fibre enhance satiety, consumption of these snacks can result in lower total daily energy consumption.  Factoring in the added benefits to digestive and cardiovascular health, incorporating protein and fibre in kids’ snacks is a great way to help support their healthy growth and development.

Buoyant demand for snack bars, particularly in the USA and UK, has prompted the development of methods to assess such products. The expectation of a consumer opening a cereal bar is that the bar is present a one solid intact piece. A bar that breaks during transit or storage somehow gives an inferior impression of the product and can affect repeat purchase. A Three Point Bend Rig can be used to determine the break strength of cereal bars. The rig measures the force required to snap the sample, showing its hardness.

Testing of energy bar using a 5-blade Kramer shear cell
Testing of energy bar using
a 5-blade Kramer shear cell
Cereal bar manufacturers can also use the five-bladed Kramer Shear Cell to perform a “multiple cutting” test which gives a measure of bite force that a consumer would experience. The use of multiple blades rather than single blades creates an averaging effect when testing such a heterogeneous product.

To ensure product success you will need to guarantee an interesting mouthfeel. Once you’ve mastered that you will need to control and measure your product to guarantee its consistency texture and therefore maintain consumer loyalty. This is exactly where the Texture Analyser becomes the perfect employee!

Request our article The Sound of Quality for Food which looks at developments in the field of food acoustics.

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.

No-one understands texture analysis like we do!

To discuss your specific test requirements, click here...

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