How to Measure Food Texture and Why?

Texture refers to certain qualities in food that can be felt with the fingers, tongue, palate, and teeth.  Different foods have different textures, from crisp crackers or potato chips, crunchy celery, and hard candy, to tender steaks, chewy chocolate chip cookies, and sticky toffee. 

Why Measure Texture?

Texture, while an indicator of the type of food and its unique qualities, is also an index of quality. Its importance lies in the fact that it can affect processing and handling, influence habits, and affect shelf-life and consumer acceptance of products.

Successful production and quality control depend on the ability to measure and test products at any stage of manufacture. In short, if you can’t measure the qualities and, in this case, texture, of a product during manufacture, you can’t control it.

What is Food Texture Analysis?

Texture analysis is the science for objectively measuring the subjective, mechanical characteristics of food products in order to measure their physical properties.

A number of industries make regular use of texture analysis as it is a technique for measuring specific ranges of characteristics and properties in materials. An adaptable analysis technique, texture analysis can provide information relating to the way a material behaves, breaks, flows, sticks, or bends, for example.

Typical physical or textural properties that are often measured include stickiness, firmness, crispness, chewiness, consistency, and spreadability.

Texture analysis is seen in both the development of new products and as part of routine quality control across all stages of manufacture in major companies. They carry out a wide range of measurements during the manufacturing process to analyze raw materials, excipients, semi-finished goods, packaging, and finished products.

Texture analysis a cost-effective method to determine the effects of raw material or excipient quality, as well as the adjustment of formulation or processing variables on the acceptability of the end product. This includes measurements on the 'mouth feel' properties of food, the flow properties of creams and pastes, the break or bend of a product, or the stickiness of confectionery.

Sometimes, problematic textural issues will present themselves when it comes to the storage or transportation of products. Again, texture analysis is a powerful and useful assessment tool in these situations. It can prove to be an effective means of comparison with competitive products, or where claims substantiation is necessary to take a technical, pro-active stance in your market.

Texture analysis easily proves itself as an indispensable tool when you need to quantify the texture or overall physical properties of your 'gold standard' product for future comparison in manufacture. The key in this instance is to maintain consistent textural quality.

How a Texture Analyzer Works?

A Texture Analyzer is a texture measurement system that moves up or down to compress and stretch a sample. In a simple test, the analyzer’s traveling arm is fitted with a load cell. It records the force response of the sample to the deformation that it is undergoing.

Data on force, distance and time is collected and is generally presented as a curve on a graph, which, when analyzed, indicates the textural qualities  of the sample.

Stable Micro Systems Offers the most universal Texture Analyzers available today, the TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus 'World Standard' instruments completely satisfy the increasing need for accurate, repeatable and quantifiable textural information. The TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus evaluate textural properties by capturing force, distance and time data at high speeds of 2000 data points per second. This data is then displayed graphically by Exponent software.

The Endless Possibilities of Typical Texture Analysis Applications

Many texture analysis tests such as the Bloom Strength test for gelatin gels, are International Standards. Others are simply recognized as standard tests within an industry, such as Texture Profile Analysis for a wide range of food products, for example.

To ensure their success, all of these tests depend upon a number of elements. Chiefly, these tests are reliant on the integrity of the Texture Analyzer and the selection of the correct testing method, but they also depend on the manufacturing precision of the probe or attachment used, as well as the accuracy of the analytical software to generate and illustrate the results in a clear and concise way.

The choice of probe or fixture that you use to carry out these texture analysis tests will depend upon the sample's form, the specific property you are measuring or the action that needs to be performed. Different fixtures are available to provide the required compression, extrusion, cutting, extending or bending action on the sample, as well fixtures to support, anchor, or deform the sample in a way that mimics typical customer use.

The TA.XTplus Texture Analyzer with its wealth of application methods and the range of over 200 probes and attachments are the result of decades of experience culminating in the design and manufacture of this equipment.

Probes and fixtures can be attached to the texture analyzer to perform an array of different tests, including simple tests that imitate an action performed by sensory analysis. The analyzer can also be configured to perform tests to obtain specific types of data.

Sensory Analysis vs. Texture Analysis

Sensory analysis covers smell, taste, sound and touch senses. Evaluation of food texture by touch doesn’t only include the fingers and hands, it also analyzes the feeling of food against the lips, tongue, palate and teeth.

Sensory analyses subject to obvious variability, and the process is labor intensive, meaning its financial burden as an analysis tool is considerable.

Instrumental methods of assessing texture can be carried out under more strictly defined and controlled conditions. Problems of experimental variability are more likely to arise from sample heterogeneity than by a lack of precision from the instruments.

Another reason which makes sensory analysis challenging is that changes in ingredient levels cause numerous, simultaneous changes in a product’s characteristics. As these changes can be difficult to mask, instrumental analysis may be a more suitable tool in this instance.

The primary goal of a number of texture studies is to devise one or more mechanical tests possessing the capacity to replace human sensory evaluation as a tool to assess texture. Measurements that yield both fundamental and empirical product characteristics are well developed, and wide-ranging imitative test procedures are also becoming increasingly important. Their relevance is in imitating a real-life situation, which permits far simpler data interpretation.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Stable Micro Systems Ltd.

For more information on this source, please visit Stable Micro Systems Ltd.

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