Soggy crackers. Grainy chocolate. Mushy apple.
Not appealing, right? No one can deny the importance of texture and mouthfeel in our enjoyment of food. As consumers, we have desired textural characteristics ingrained in our brain for each consumable that we eat. These characteristics are inherently linked to the perceived quality of a product.
Today’s more experience-driven consumers demand more from their food and beverages, and encounters that appeal to multiple senses beyond taste will provide consumers with escapes from their routines and create opportunities for manufacturers to deliver memorable experiences.
Texture underexplored but ready to stand out in 2020
Has texture been previously undervalued versus taste and scent? It seems apparent in the language we use to describe texture. Just try to write down 10 words to describe taste. Can you also find 10 words to describe texture? Texture seems underexplored in comparison.
However, that is now changing. According to Food Ingredients First 3 mega-trends are driving the increased interest in texture: plant-based, clean label and sugar reduction. These 3 health-driven trends are inspiring reformulation, and are forcing manufacturers to bring textures that are recognisable or exciting.
Sensory renaissance: a global phenomenon
On a global level, consumers of all ages increasingly value textural attributes of food, and are open to a range of texture across different categories. Asia is definitely the region to watch when it comes to texture innovation.
- 63%* of Chinese consumers say that rich textures would make them try snacks that are trending on social media. The bubble tea trend in Asia has opened a new space for snackable drink formats with edible inclusions. Latest launches in Mintel include floral lattes incorporating jelly pieces, confectionery featuring layers of different textures, and multi textural ice creams. China, Japan and South Korea are among the most forward-thinking markets when it comes to incorporating texture into food and drink.
- Texture is an integral consideration for US snack bar consumers too - US consumers consider snack bars to be chewy and to feature added fruit or grains, while performance and weight-loss bars are associated with crunchy or dense textures.
- UK sweets eaters have emotional connections to texture. Soft and buttery is the most engaging texture provided by sugar confectionery in the UK. Meanwhile, crunchy and chewy-textured sweets can provide a sense of satisfaction.
Health: the link between sugar reduction and chewy textures
The reformulation of products to promote health goes further than only taste. Manufacturers are challenged to find alternatives for sugar that deliver appealing sweetness and also a pleasant mouthfeel.
Experience: todays snackers call for more disruptive products [7 ways brands can respond]
Experimenting with texture and mouthfeel is key to deliver memorable eating experiences. According to Food Ingredients First innovation in texture will be a standout theme for 2020. Stepping up innovation efforts by amplifying and redefining sensory experiences, will engage consumers of all age groups.
1. Experiment with multi-textural innovations
Experimental brands are looking to provide consumers with the unexpected mouthfeel of multiple textures. Typically a mix of crunchy and creamy, mousse-like and crisp creates interesting textures that consumers love. For example , we are seeing chocolate launches featuring the contrasting textures of soft, chewy fruit with crunchy meringue or cookie. Snack innovations that pair crunchy nuts or vegetables with soft chewy fruit offers consumer a healthier alternative.
Texture preference is linked with snack choice & eating occasion. Texture plays a role in snack choice, and consumers associate specific textures with certain times of the day, such as soft and puffy or crumbly snacks in the morning, crispy, chewy leisure-time snacks and premium soft and puffy dessert textures in the evening.
2. Layer it up
Layering multiple textures offers unexpected mouthfeel. Snack bars that layer nuts and granola with nut butters and a fruit or chocolate layer are an exciting innovation in the snacking space.
3. Filled Indulgence
Textural experimentation across categories blends crunchy and creamy or smooth and chewy in one bite. Nature Valley (UK) created the Nut Butter Cup, which pairs a crunchy cookie cup, with a creamy nut butter filling, topped with crunchy chopped nuts), and active nutrition brands such as CLIF Bar (US) are boosting the indulgence factor with a range of filled bars. In the APAC market, we are seeing super exciting innovation in the energy ball segment, e.g. with a dual filling of peanut butter and fruit jelly .
Textural experimentation across the bakery segment can also bolster indulgence credentials – picture filled cookies and cake products featuring softs pastes or cremes, with a chewy or crunchy contrast.
4. To top it off
Creative new takes on textural toppings, which add to visual and textural appeal. The global backlash on sugar has manufacturers looking towards healthier alternatives to traditional sugar-based toppings.
5. "Thins" play with texture for better-for-you benefits
Manufacturers have developed products with a "thin" appearance and texture to appeal to those looking for lighter, healthier options or for those seeking new textural experiences. We are seeing this play out particularly across the chocolate and long shelf life bakery segments.
6. Fun and excitement for all
To 'bring joy to life' and support those who have difficulty swallowing and/or poor appetite, an interesting development was introduced under the Eat Bar label in the US. Available in four flavours, these calorie-dense meringue bars that melt on the tongue are recommended for consumers of all ages, with a special focus on seniors and young children.
7. Multi-sensory for the adventurous iGeneration
Products seeking to connect with the tweens, teens and young adults of the iGeneration also can use texture and mouthfeel to provide these young consumers with experiences worthy of seeking out and sharing on social media. Fizzy, sour, spicy or the unexpected (take Fanta’s Jelly Fizz containing liquid jelly pieces) – they are up for the challenge!
The opportunity - in a world where consumers want the experience amplified, the sound, feel and satisfaction provided by texture can make products more captivating. Creating the unexpected with combinations of textures that surprise and delight consumers of all ages can help to position products as fresher, more filling or simply more fun.
- Find out more about the link between sugar reduction & texture in our webinar about Sweet Spots.