October 1, 2006
by Lori Dahm
Achieving the balance that meets consumer acceptance is a complex game.
Achieving the proper texture in dairy applications continues to be an important aspect of the dairy formulation proposition, whether that be in the tried-and-true categories such as yogurts or burgeoning applications such as new trendy dairy beverages or advents in the frozen dessert area.
While stabilizer and hydrocolloid ingredients may not be new in the field, the particular combinations or levels used have changed to accommodate other components appearing in the newest products.
Texture is of paramount importance in the dairy world, and successfully formulated new products begin with a clearly defined goal for the ultimate mouthfeel and other sensory attributes related to texturizer systems, such as viscosity and emulsion. All of these parameters dictate the selection of the proper texture ingredients for particular attributes and aesthetics in products that are the newly introduced dairy delights appearing in today’s market.
Beverages Bust Out
Some of the new happenings in dairy beverages affect the types of texture ingredients necessary to account for new technologies and processing methods, as well as new components of dairy beverages such as increased protein loads, fortification elements or ingredients such as cocoa.
“Current trends in dairy beverages include looking to dairy products to add additional nutritional value through fortification. Fiber, calcium and vitamin D are all currently being used to fortify dairy beverages such as milks, flavored milks, smoothies and drinkable yogurts,” says Jenny Norton, food scientist at TIC Gums, Belcamp, Md. “Probiotics and prebiotics are also being added to many of the dairy beverages in the market place for health benefits.”
Many of these nutritional components require an adjustment in the texturizer/stabilizer system to create the proper aesthetic and mouthfeel balance.
“A major growing category is the nutritional beverages and meal replacement category within dairy,” says Ross White, applications manager at FMC Biopolymers, Princeton, N.J. “These beverages typically require suspension of insoluble ingredients like minerals and cocoa to ensure the delivery of label claims over the shelf life of the product.”
Sometimes the texture ingredients can also add to the nutritional punch being offered by the dairy beverage.
“Our products are high in fiber, and we do have calcium-added blends as well, so customers can use our products not only to satisfy their fiber or calcium fortification in a dairy beverage, but also to act as a functional texture ingredient,” Norton says. “This way the customer is basically getting an item that will address two issues in one.”
Other factors affecting the texture in dairy beverages include the manner in which these products are being processed. Specifically, the pasteurization method used can alter what type of texture ingredient is best suited to an application.
“Many of the dairy beverages today are UHT processed or retorted. These extreme temperatures can cause the protein in the beverage to settle at the bottom,” Norton says. “With all of the new high protein drinks this becomes a greater issue. Hydrocolloids and phosphate salts are added to these beverages to help stabilize the protein, add viscosity and provide a creamy mouthfeel to the dairy beverage.”
Such applications tend to use hydrocolloids such as carrageenan, guar, microcrystalline cellulose and locust bean gum to create a finished product that delivers the type of texture desirable to the end customer. In fact, knowing that end desire is one of the most important aspects of formulating these dairy beverages successfully.
“The biggest technical challenge in any application is achieving the desired characteristics without introducing unwanted attributes such as excessive viscosity, gelation, separation, et cetera,” White says. “The balance comes in understanding the customers’ needs, along with a clear understanding of the formulation and potential interactions.”
Knowing the different options available in terms of the sensory attributes that an end product could deliver is key.
“Do you want the product thicker than it is now? Do you want particles to suspend in the fluid? Do you want something that is thinner, but just has added mouthfeel?” Norton says. “Conditions such as heating, mixing, cooling or even the order of incorporation can affect the hydrocolloids that you select to play a role in the finished product.”
Knowing the end goal texture for a product is only half of the battle. The first challenge in understanding this formulation objective revolves around knowing what will be most acceptable to the consumer — what type of viscosity consumers desire in certain applications.
“We realize that while texture is important to the consumer, many often have a difficult time articulating particular texture desires,” says Marshall Fong, director of marketing for National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J. “To gain more insight into the mind of the consumer as it relates to texture, we incorporated a metaphor-based consumer research technique that has consumers articulate textures through objects, images and narrative descriptions. Using analytical software, we can create clear linkages between consumer language and emotions all the way down to specific SKUs.”
While clear understanding of the consumer experience of texture may remain somewhat elusive at times, what is clear is that the trend in dairy beverages continues to demonstrate a split personality in growth directions. While one part of the trend is toward health and nutrition, the other direction underscores the consumer desire to experience indulgence and decadence.
“In the dairy-based beverage category, newer products are along the lines of line extensions and flavor variations that convert ice cream and candy bar flavors to beverages,” White says. “Reasonable growth is likely to continue as more consumers depend on beverages to supplement their diets because of busy lifestyles.”
The news in frozen desserts is that while some ice cream manufacturers invest in processing equipment to create frozen desserts that offer a decadent mouthfeel in products with less fat, others use gums, stabilizers and emulsifiers to achieve a similar effect. “Everyone is looking for that improved texture — a texture and body in a lowfat system that matches the body and texture of a full-fat product without incorporating large capital expenditures to current processing lines,” says George Ayling, technical manger of Gelstar products at FMC Bioploymers.
The answer is stabilizer blends that include hydrocolloids and emulsifiers in a combination that helps these products mimic the texture of full fat to appeal to the consumer. “Adding unique combinations of hydrocolloids and emulsifiers can help counter-affect the negative textures of the loss of fat and sugar,” Norton says. “These stabilizers give a light and fully texture to the ice cream, which has been found to be accepted and liked by the end consumer.”
Many dairy dessert manufacturers creating lower-fat products use a combination of different processing methods — slower processing time, lower temperatures — along with the added hydrocolloids and stabilizers. Together with lower processing pressures, the taste and eating quality of butterfat can be enhanced in the end product, providing a smoother texture due to smaller ice crystals, and have the added benefit of withstanding heat shock and altitude protection.
“We use our new microcrystalline cellulose ingredient technology to enhance the functional properties of these new lower-fat ice cream products,” Ayling says. “With this new technology, we are able to provide a cost savings by reducing the milkfat while at the same time providing the mouthfeel of a fuller-bodied system.”
While stabilizers and emulsifiers have been a longstanding component of ice cream formulations for the control of ice-crystal growth and freeze-thaw stability, it is the new combinations being used that are delivering the texture of full-fat ice creams in a lower-fat system.
“Consumers are always looking for that one product that is healthy, but yet tastes like it isn’t,” Norton says. “Ice cream is one area in which this is being seen currently in the marketplace with all of the lower fat, lower sugar alternatives being created in the frozen dessert field.”
Old Road, New Direction
In the yogurt arena, use of texture ingredients and stabilizer systems has remained a relatively stable field for quite some time. Even the latest trend of mousse-like textures in yogurt requires the same types of commonly used stabilizers.
“The standard texture ingredients in yogurt and yogurt beverages are tried and true. Pectin, starch and gelatin are the primary stabilizers, with others used to a lesser extent,” White says. “Textural issues are less problematic in this category because the majority of products tend to be thicker in mouthfeel and higher in viscosity with little variation.”
Some of the aspects of yogurts which are resolved through the inclusion of texture ingredients include whey-off and excess shear, issues which can result in a very thin yogurt or one that separates. In addition to pectin and starch, agar and locust bean gum are used to offset these textural problems in yogurts.
And the one area of new growth in the world of texture ingredients revolves around the “organic” demarcation. The organic concern is not as much a texture ingredient issue for dairy products formulated as “95 percent organic,” because the stabilizer systems comprise such a small percentage of the overall product. However, for dairy products that bear the “100 percent organic” label, the concern becomes more pressing.
“Organic products are definitely on the rise, and for those products we offer 100 percent organic certified texture ingredients and blends,” Norton says.
Other new products are giving consumers healthier alternatives without sacrificing taste or texture.
“The overall trend in the dairy industry is to take products that have been on the shelf for years and bring them into the future,” Norton says.$OMN_arttitle="Texture Tableau";?>