Popcorn chips

“Texture the next food mega-trend”

“Texture is moving to the forefront as the next hot mega-trend,” said Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, speaking at this weekend’s 2013 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago. More than one-quarter (27%) of the best-selling [in the US] new foods and beverages in 2012 carried a texture claim, according to IRI’s 2013 New Product Pacesetter Report, Sloan noted.

She said the texture movement started around 2010, when the number of best-selling new products carrying a texture claim doubled for the first time in history.

Why texture, why now? According to Sloan, there are a number of drivers for the texture movement. First, she said, texture has enormous appeal to foodies, who are going well beyond flavour and terroir as they seek to find more adventure in foods.

Consumers are also using texture to confirm whether a product is “real”, fresh, or less processed, she said. They are paying attention to textural attributes, i.e., do they see real nuts or dried fruit in a bar or cookie or the pulp in a fresh-squeezed juice or the flakes indicating a fresh-baked pie?

With 11 000 new food items entering supermarkets each year, Sloan pointed out that shoppers now also use texture to better determine if an item would match their taste preferences. For example, will that cookie be soft and chewy or hard and crisp? Lastly, she pointed out that they’re still looking for indulgence, healthy or not, and there’s no better way to do that than touting a rich, creamy texture.

Quoting Technomic’s 2010 and 2012 Consumer Healthy Eating Trend Reports, she explained that the percentage of consumers who say they would order/buy a food described as “savoury,” jumped from 31% in 2010 to 51% in 2012, “crispy” went from 27% to 38%, and “rich” from 22% to 32%.

Not surprisingly, younger adults have the greatest interest in texture, indicating that it is a long-term trend worthy of investment by food manufacturers.

Snacks, bars, cereals, and dairy, especially cheese, are the most active categories when it comes to texture claims at this point, according to Sloan. Texture and technology are allowing manufacturers to create entirely new product forms, she said, citing Kellogg’s new Special K Popcorn Chips, PomePure’s Pressed Juices, Peeled Snacks’ Apple Clusters, and Oatworks’ cereal/breakfast beverages.

Extra-thin items (e.g., cookie, cracker, and bread thins) are adding crispness and crunch while addressing the rising low carb/less bread movement. Salty snack marketers are making chips in all sizes, shapes, and thickness for added crunch. Boursin has added nuts and figs to its smooth cheese spread.

Coatings will also be strong texture contenders over the next few years, according to Sloan. Breaded cheese/grilling cheeses are growing in popularity. Panko-crusted was the fastest-growing fish preparation in restaurants over the past five years, according to Datassential. Soft cheese/curd cheese enrobed bars are also moving into the spotlight as are dough-enrobed whole nut snacks.

Moreover, with nine in 10 consumers preferring to get benefits naturally from foods, the opportunities for natural products that help to improve the texture of products (e.g., nuts, fruit pieces, whole grains, and natural thickeners) will gain momentum, according to Sloan. After all, whole grain and fibre are still the most sought after healthy ingredients on the nutrition label, according to IFIC’s 2013 Food & Health Survey.

Sloan looked to restaurants as a future barometer for the most popular texture claims. Presenting data from the Food Research Institute’s MenuMine database, she said that crisp, tender, creamy, stuffed, and melted were the top texture descriptors for savoury menu items (e.g., meats and appetisers).

But, in conclusion, Sloan said that it’s not just the opportunity to tout texture that is most exciting to her, it’s the ability to name, claim, and create an innovative series of new terms and tastes across the consumption process for any food or beverage that has really interesting potential.

Source: IFT