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

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Food Texture – Likes and Dislikes

Apart from crispy foods like crackling, British consumers embrace softer-feeling food.  Industrialised, processed food is often marketed as soft and creamy in the UK, with adverts for such foods playing on the sensual and comfort associations that have set in from a young age.

Our childhood association with pureed food is one of the reasons we turn to soups when we are ill.

Food Texture as a Child
Children develop texture predilections from their first encounters with food, preferring crunchy, juicy or tender textures over stringy, gummy or slimy foods. We know that young kids don't like to have textured food at the beginning. Research into the texture preferences of 12-month-old children has shown how important it is to vary texture to help develop childrens' palates. 

Historically Acceptable Food Textures

Our grandparent’s generation ate more offal. Now the ideal, for many people, is a steak or a chicken breast. That, perhaps, is a social change.

Food historian Ivan Day points out that foods with a gelatinous, glutinous texture were more popular in the past. Dishes like pigs' trotters, calves' head and fromage de tete (brawn) were enjoyed by our ancestors, foods with a "thick, slightly rubbery, chewy, jelly feel". Even in the East End 30 or 40 years ago, there was still a taste for jellied eel. He says: "our tastes have been dictated by mass produced foods. A squeamishness has developed as we've been removed from the production of our food."

The Dislike of Certain Textures

There is a strong link between familiarity and liking. This is linked to neophobia, the fear of novelty and unwillingness to try new things. Many people have a narrow window of textural acceptability and these preferences come down to a combination of beliefs and attitudes that are culturally transmitted. For instance, some people think insects are gross, creepy or disgusting – which then stops them from eating insects.

Food aversions are generally subjective, but there are definitely trends in unpopular textures. To the western palate, sliminess is often greeted with suspicion and associated with decay. For instance, while most people love mushrooms, they are often berated for their “slug-like” and “rubbery” texture. 

The most extreme textural revulsion occurs when we feel something unexpected in our mouths. If you pop in a chunk of chocolate only to find that it doesn’t melt, or you’re immersed in the wonder of a mushroom risotto and suddenly bite down on some grit, you get a rude awakening. An unsettling moment of panic that your food is rotten, or contaminated with something gross…

The Adventure of Texture

Despite our disgust for textures perceived as "wrong", there are perhaps signs that we're embracing more interesting food textures in the UK.  We now get the more adventurous eaters wanting to eat offal, tripe, chitterlings and pigs' tails and ears for the experience factor rather than their textural pleasure. 

This article was inspired by other original articles: 

The Importance of Texture in Food (The Telegraph)

Food texture's forgotten pleasures (BBC 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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Watch our video about texture analysis Replicating Consumer Preferences Texture Analysis applications

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