Targeting texture in indulgent foods and drinks

9 Mar 2020

Despite consumer assertions that they want healthier foods, sales of indulgent products continue to grow, providing opportunities for creamy, crunchy and contrasting textures in various categories.

Desserts, confectionery, beverages, chocolate and ice cream spring to mind when it comes to indulgence, but the reasons that consumers perceive these items as treats go well beyond flavour alone. Their aroma, nutritional profile and even the packaging are important factors. However, texture is perhaps the most influential, with contrasts between crunchy and smooth, chewy and brittle, or crispy and creamy, adding significantly to the eating experience.

Targeting texture in indulgent foods and drinks
Sensory appeal in indulgent categories goes beyond taste

Ingredient suppliers have been coming forward with innovative textural products to answer this demand. Puratos, for instance, recently introduced Smoobees, soft and smooth inclusions for baked goods to bring contrasting flavour and fruit, but especially a new texture sensation. It describes the product as a “new sensorial experience” with a “smooth, melting texture in every bite”. And Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate has noted increased demand for larger chocolate chunk inclusions, and crisp chocolate layers in creamy desserts.

However, while indulgence often equates to high sugar and fat content, textural variations make it possible to give the impression of indulgence without necessarily ramping up the calories. Cargill has a range of stevia-sweetened chocolate inclusions, for example, as well as organic and single origin dark chocolates, and ingredients that are vegan, lactose-free and naturally flavoured.

Ingredion also provides a range of textures to appeal to consumer desire for indulgence, and suggests that the perception of indulgence is highly personal, with different consumers preferring different textures. It has even identified four separate eating styles that correspond with these textural preferences, classifying consumers as Crunchers, Smooshers, Chewers and Suckers. A Smoosher, for instance, might prefer rich, creamy desserts that they can manipulate with their tongue and palate, while a Cruncher might prefer sweets with crisp shells, nuts and crunchy biscuits.

Outside the realm of sweet treats, texture can also help add an impression of indulgence to savoury products. Examples include rich and creamy dressings and sauces, and crisp bacon pieces or high-quality flaky sea salt added to baked goods.

What is clear is that indulgence is still important to consumers, even as they strive to improve the overall nutritional quality of their diets. According to Euromonitor International, the provenance and naturalness of ingredients, and the story of the product as a whole, have gained in importance, but consumers are still treating themselves – even as they buy indulgent treats less often on impulse and more often to enjoy as part of a planned eating occasion.

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