New product development is notoriously prone to failure, with an estimated 75-90% of new CPG launches withdrawn from the market within their first year. Speakers at the Fi Europe conference in Paris highlighted several ways in which better understanding of ingredients could lead to more appealing – and ultimately more successful – foods.
“Microstructure isn’t something that immediately springs to mind when developing a new product,” said Dr Mark Auty, Research Principal, Food Microstructure at RSSL. “…There is more than one way of creating the same perceived texture, but it is more about understanding better how your product is made, particularly the distribution and interplay between different ingredients.”
He suggested that if a company was making a meat alternative, for example, developers might be able to achieve a meat-like texture perception without necessarily creating an identical texture. However, understanding the microstructure of meat could still be used as a starting point to inform development of more meat-like textures.
“In meat, connective tissue and fat are important for chewiness, controlled flavour release and a moist mouthfeel,” he said. “While there is more than one way to make a burger, microstructure can tell you a lot. To see how well-dispersed your ingredients are, their particle size and shape, there’s no better way than looking at them under the microscope.”
The big trends for consumers
Many major food industry trends present specific challenges for formulators that could be addressed with better understanding of food technology, whether producing foods with reduced salt, sugar and fat, or developing more sustainable and tasty plant proteins.
“If you look at the big trends for consumers, the plant kingdom is one that really stands out,” said Dr René Floris, Division Manager Food at NIZO. “Plant proteins are about sustainability, nutrition – and natural is a big thing.”
In dairy products, food technologists already have a vast amount of knowledge that could be applied to developing plant-based products.
Dr Floris said that functional fermentation has a lot to do with flavour formation, but also getting rid of off flavours, adding that it could also be used to improve food safety or to produce vitamins.
“If we are able to transfer all the knowledge from the dairy world to the plant world, I think there is a world to be gained quite fast.”
Prof Dr Fred van de Velde, Principal Scientist, Protein Functionality at NIZO suggested that fermentation could be used to produce better-tasting dairy alternatives, with a fresher, less beany flavour.
“Fermentation is a powerful tool that could be used a lot more,” he said.
In addition, food technologists could help boost the sustainability credentials of plant proteins by improving the solubility of functional protein ingredients. While protein isolates are higher in protein, protein concentrates use less energy to produce.
“We need to close the gap between the isolate and the concentrate to make more sustainable and functional protein ingredients,” he said.