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

Tuesday 26 January 2016

It’s all in the Sauce – Measuring Mouthfeel

Sauces are the culinary workhorse of the food world. They add colour, a concentrated burst of complementary or contrasting flavour, and texture to everything from salads and pasta to meat and fish. 

Savoury or sweet, hot or cold, thin or thick, a topping or a mix-in, sauces have crossed cultural borders and are part of virtually all major cuisines. And sauces and soup products are flying off store shelves as consumers look for ways to enhance recipes. 

The global market for these products is expected to reach $72 billion by 2015 (the number includes condiments, dressings, and seasonings as well (GIA, 2011) with high levels of new product activity still driving growth in what are now relatively mature markets. Mintel predicts continued success in the cooking sauces and marinades categories with sales projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2015 (Mintel, 2011). The company’s research also found that 83% of adults who cook/prepare meals at home use cooking sauces and marinades when preparing meals and 74% use store-bought sauces and marinades.

The global sauces market is highly diverse and fragmented, covering a wide range of different product types, including pasta sauces, cooking sauces, bottled and table sauces, and salad sauces, mayonnaise and dressings. Launch activity has risen consistently in recent years, probably reflecting the increasing variety of meals and cuisines being discovered by consumers. Increasing interest in foreign cuisines has been particularly significant for the cooking sauces and table sauces categories. 

While Asia has the largest sauces market globally, reflecting very high per capita consumption levels in comparison with the West, new product development is tending to be driven by the higher value-added markets in the West, particularly in Europe, where the diversity of countries and cuisines has combined with increasing demands for convenience lines and high levels of competition to produce ongoing and increasingly sophisticated new product development. 

Television shows that emphasise food and culture, increased travel, and the willingness to try something new have influenced consumers’ interest in experimenting with flavour. It also helps that cooking with sauces is a relatively affordable way to try new ingredients and flavour sensations. The recessionary climate has led many consumers to eschew restaurant trips or to reduce their frequency and instead cook or prepare meals at home. 

Features of globalisation, regionalisation and ethnic diversity are being transferred into the foods we eat. As people travel to experience different cultures, the eating habits and foods they experience are being sought back in their home country. This has led to many development technologists to search the culinary heritage of various regions for new concepts and ideas, particularly for sauces. Even in the “old standby” tomato ketchup which was a well-defined market sector, we now see variations in spices, flavours and textures, some base on the Asian kitchen, Mexican kitchen or just on manufacturers’ inventiveness. 

Today, hot sauces, regional barbecue sauces, spicy and sweet Asian sauces, and Indian simmer sauces are as popular as ever. Product developers and chefs continue to innovate by using cutting-edge ingredients and on-trend flavours to meet consumers’ expectations.  Today’s consumers will find no shortage of sauce products formulated with ingredients to provide authentic ethnic flair; impart bold, strong flavours for heat, sweetness, umami, and sour sensations; and create one-of-a-kind or unusual flavour combinations.

With such saturation in the sauce category, marketers are making certain claims, and product developers are formulating products based on consumer research to differentiate their products from competitors or to address consumer demands about nutrition. Formulating a product with high-quality ingredients and calling it “premium” helps to attract consumers seeking to recreate restaurant-quality food at home.  Using words like “signature”, “original”, “secret recipe”, “homemade”, and “fresh” are ways to make the product special so that consumers think it is something that they can’t get everywhere.  Many of these products positioned as “premium” are also made without certain additives or preservatives or are formulated to help consumers meet certain dietary needs.

To help the millions of children and adults who suffer from food allergies or food intolerances, food manufacturers offer sauces made without gluten, dairy ingredients, or other common food allergens and make “free-from” claims on front of package. Whilst the nutritional quality of products is important to many consumers it is the sensory aspects of the finished product, which are arguably as important to the bottom line. If a product does not taste good – no matter how “good-for-you” it is – consumers will not purchase it. 

Speciality wheat proteins and starches are often used to enhance texture in a variety of foods, including sauces. Functional whey proteins, are another example of an ingredient which may be chosen to improve texture and mouthfeel (ranging from smooth and gel-like to heavy and tacky), reduce the use of stabilizers and emulsifiers, have high viscosity and water-binding capabilities, and are heat-, acid-, and freeze-thaw stable, all being important characteristics of a convenience sauce which may not be prepared and sold as “fresh” and therefore require shelf-life supporting ingredients.

Sauce dripping from a spoon
In such competitive markets, it is important for manufacturers to differentiate their products. One way to do this is by altering the texture and appearance of the sauce. The variety of flavours, textures, colour, and general mouthfeel of sauces is almost infinitely variable and is still very exploitable. What is clear however is that in order to deliver a consistent consistency product one needs to have in place an objective method that can quantify the texture of each product, be it in the quality control area or that of research and product development. 

The value to food manufacturers of accurate and consistent objective measurement of the texture of different foodstuffs has been established for a long time. Now, more than ever, manufacturers are searching for up to date techniques to quantify their products’ attributes accurately and very quickly. Texture analysis possibilities include the measurement of the crispness of sugar or chocolate coatings, the extensibility of chewing gum and fruit leathers, the stickiness of gums and the strength of edible films. 

To be competitive, manufacturers will have to respond by developing technically superior, more innovative products, and at a faster rate than their competitors. Unusual flavours, colours, and textures are what drive novelty in confectionery products. Whilst the use of texture analysis is commonplace in quality control, the product development laboratory is having to gather its pace in order to offer to consumers novel products that satisfy their curiosity in the search for new sensory experiences.

Request our article The Thick (and Thin) of it which looks at the texture analysis of semisolid products.

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

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