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

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Fruit Texture: a world of food development possibilities with fruit / fruit firmness/ripeness

TA.XTExpress texture analyserOnly relatively recently have modern techniques in texture analysis been implemented in the fruit sector.

The embracement of more advanced testing methods and technologies has been led by increased fruit consumption in the consumer sphere, in turn boosted by increased health awareness and a global trend towards healthier living. Historically considered a ‘low value-added’ commodity, agricultural produce such as fruit has failed to attract the same level of investment and sophistication of analysis into the correlations between structural characteristics and consumer acceptability as processed foods have.

In addition, tangential developments such as sustainable farming and the organic movement not only add an ethical dimension to the consumer purchasing decision, but also exaggerate the already fierce competition: where once seasonality and geographical provenance of fruits alone dictated supply, globalisation and the ‘superfruit’ trend – an example of increased general interest in health – have seen new and exotic specimens join the race for market share. Add to the above a debate on GM foods, and it becomes apparent this business requires more than sun, water and fertile ground to be fruitful.

Fruit in various forms, as a whole, dehydrated, in pieces, as juice, extracts, pastes and pur̩es Рis used in a myriad of food and drink products including smoothies, salsas and other condiments, cereal bars, dessert toppings, bakery fillings, dairy products such as ice creams and yoghurts, and even fruit leathers. In addition to its traditional function as a sweetener and colourant, fruit is now also recognised as a natural preservative providing smooth mouthfeel and texture, a natural humectant to extend shelf-life and as a provider of phytochemicals important to human health.

Fruit-based snacks can be modest in bulk as well as rapidly edible; sustaining without providing excessive residues; simple yet glamorous and satisfying to eye, mouthfeel and memory. Their consumption can be a positive cultural move towards a more healthy existence. The multi-functional nature of fruit and its almost infinite variety contribute to its rising demand in applications and especially in convenience products.

With the exception of the consumer’s keen eye and firm touch, methods of testing fruit quality through texture nowadays bear little evidence to agricultural roots. With the help of advances in technology, new apparatus is producing results that are precise, reliable and repeatable. Innovative, flexible means of assessment are becoming accessible to the industry as a whole. Equally, the knowledge gained is proving an invaluable resource in optimising business processes.

Measuring Fruit Firmness/Ripeness

Testing fruit by hand New fruit crops and varieties appear each year. Fruit growers and processors, faced with the challenge of gaining and maintaining a healthy position in the competitive fruit sector are using increasingly sophisticated methods to investigate quality.

Coupled with consumer appetite for new products, the fierce competition to supply quality fruit has stimulated these advances in assessment techniques.

These include texture analysis methods using sophisticated equipment and software systems (the TA.XTplus Texture Analyser and Exponent), which can accurately assess the texture of food during maturation, ripening, storage and marketing and identify whether a fruit is capable of withstanding the stresses and strains of packaging, transportation and processing. At each stage a method for measuring the firmness of the skin, flesh, and core of the fruit is necessary to ensure the maximum return from a crop.

Fruit quality is a concept based on several criteria which depend on the objective. When do you harvest fruit from a plant, to arrive into the supermarket in a ‘fresh picked’ condition? Every day, consumers perform a simple subjective test in an attempt to measure the quality of fruit they wish to purchase by pressing the surface with the thumb or by squeezing the fruit in the hand, thus utilising the principle of deformation in either a penetration or compression manner.

Firmness is an important factor to take into account since most, if not all, fruits exhibit a substantial change in firmness during the process of ripening. This change may considerably influence the consumer acceptance of the product as it is related to the ‘eating maturity’ and the fruit texture. Generally, it if is firm the fruit will be purchased, and if it is soft then the question will be, when to consume it by, or whether to purchase it at all.
The term ‘firmness of fruit’ is commonly used to describe a parameter assessed by means of empirical mechanical tests and understood as an attribute that ought to be maintained during storage and processing. Firmness, interpreted as a mechanical response intrinsic to the fruit structure, is influenced by the stage of physiological development, degree of ripeness, damage, fibrosity and turgidity.

From the producer’s point of view, firmness can be an indication of the shelf life of the product. Also of major consideration is the mechanical harvesting of fruits which can cause damage from branches and other fruits as fruit falls from the tree and drops on the ground. These damages are in the form of splits, punctures and bruises. Further damage is caused when it is raked, picked up, loaded and transported to distant places by trucks. Generally, it takes several days in trans-portation from one place to another that causes various changes in physico-mechanical properties of fruits. The post-harvest mechanical properties data of fruits and vegetables are important in adoption and design of various handling, packaging, storage and transportation systems.

Finally, for the fruit processor, being able to measure different stages in the ripening process objectively and compare the texture of fruits from different sources can be of vital importance. Such information gives the processor more control over the supplier and allows the monitoring of specific textural characteristics. Many food companies search for the proper combination of crispness, crunchiness, toughness etc., to make their products successful. The importance of such texture analysis testing regimes increases as new packaging methods promote longer shelf life. Food technologists need to carefully measure the effect of such advancements and ensure that produce quality does not suffer.

Watch the video below
to see a summary of the types of testing possibilities that are available for the measurement of fruit and vegetable texture to provide quality control tools and ultimately, consumer satisfaction:

View fruit and vegetable video

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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 Fruit and Vegetable testing videoDownload a published article covering methods for the testing of fruit and vegetables

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