Crispy, melting, creamy, crunchy, viscous, gritty, grainy or juicy? SIG trend expert Julia Trebels explains the way texture influences how we taste.
Most of all I like the crunch of my Corn Flakes. I love them with milk and fresh fruit for breakfast, hearing the gentle crackle in my ears as I bite into a huge mouthful. Eating is best when all the senses are involved. Imagine if all our nourishment came from liquids. It wouldn’t work. Our senses need more; they need texture. It’s texture that makes eating and drinking into an experience – it makes all the difference!
Texture is key for anyone who is even slightly passionate about food, because it influences how we perceive taste and flavour, writes Oliver Schäfer at cookin.eu. He’s right, and food and drink experts know it: texture is becoming a key focus in the industry again. Extraordinary textures make eating and drinking exciting. And if consumers believe something to be special, they buy it again and recommend it to friends.
Texture tells me what I’m eating.
There are various elements that determine texture, including everything that we can perceive with our senses. That means with our tongue and palate of course, but also with our eyes, hands and ears, like with my Corn Flakes. A product which combines different textures has higher textural complexity. After all, eating and drinking should be enjoyable – what Michelle Greenwald calls the “wow reaction” in her article “Multi-Sensory Innovation: Why It Matters” at forbes.com.
When it comes to food, many consumers are adventurous. Alongside their tried and tested products, they also like to sample new things, always looking for that ultimate product to suit their taste and meet their demands.
“Additions like pieces of nut or fruit, cocoa nibs or grains of corn, can also make a drink more enjoyable whilst also making it more complex.”
Has a food item been freshly prepared or made with great care? Is it soft or crunchy, crispy or velvety? The texture of foodstuffs should play a key role in product development, making sure it’s right for the market and target group. Because the textures we like are defined by our cultural context, but also by the occasions we choose to have a drink. Most people like their thirst-quenching liquid refreshment, for example, to be highly fluid, fizzy and light. If the focus is on pure enjoyment, a drink can be substantial and significantly creamier, with a ‘melting’ texture.
Additions such as pieces of nut or fruit, cocoa nibs or grains of corn, can also make a drink more enjoyable whilst also making it more complex. These ‘bits’ make it possible to enhance our enjoyment of food and drink, and to make it last longer because the consumer doesn’t receive all the flavours at once. Instead, the range of textures means that slow release is possible. The most important rule is always that consumers must be able to enjoy themselves! “‘Tastes for new experiences’ are created through new flavours, textures and combinations of those,” writes Liesbeth Thijssen at foodingredientsfirst.com.
A tangible added value
Advanced processing, filling and packaging technologies enable foodstuffs manufacturers to offer a wide range of products with specific textures. These textures might be “particularly crunchy”, “extra creamy”, “super-succulent”, “melt-in-the-mouth” or “even fruitier”, or they might have created a particular texture – “with bits!” What’s important is that the foodstuffs ingredients are carefully selected – and extraordinary textures are a must. When adding pieces of fruit or vegetables to a drink, or even grains, cereals, nuts or coconut flakes, they must retain their original character. The proportion of added “bits” that really adds something to the drink can be up to 10%. Bits of up to 6 mm in length and width can be used, and viscosity can be up to 3,500 mPa s, which is particularly important in food products.
“Images, illustrations or texture-related statements are particularly well-suited to provide users with indications of the product’s texture whilst it’s still on the shelf.
I also advise looking specifically at the texture when you’re designing these products. Images, illustrations or texture-related statements are particularly well-suited to provide users with indications of the product’s texture whilst it’s still on the shelf. These indications may well influence their purchasing decision. And these images are also crucial for the consumer’s understanding of the product concept, and what they should expect: clues to the featured texture help the consumer to put products in their shopping basket that are entirely to their taste.
Leave a comment or ask a question about “Making food and drink exciting with texture”. And don´t miss out the chance to learn from experts “Why Texture Matters: Adapting quickly to opportunities by understanding global texture trends and impact on consumer behavior” – a 60-minute webinar, organised by Ingredion.