Special Report: The Indulgence Factor - Innovators Play with Texture, Mouthfeel and Freshness

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19 Jun 2017 --- The indulgent factor and indulgent experience trends are driving new product development globally. With its varied definition, indulgency can be applied across multiple food applications, with the main categories being desserts, confectionary, chocolate and beverages. Today’s consumers are more and more mindful about eating healthy but that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice their indulgence food experiences. 

FoodIngredientsFirst takes a look at what indulgency means to consumers and how manufacturers are responding to their needs. 

Indulgency is often associated with creaminess, sweet and rich flavor profiles. Earlier this month, Starbucks Asia announced three new sensory experiences for customers in the form of Frappuccino beverages. A great beverage isn’t always just about taste. It can be a whole sensory experience including a tantalizing aroma and appealing appearance. And for Starbucks customers across Asia, it is now also about a wider range of unique textures. Click to Enlarge

Acording to Starbucks, the limited edition frappuccino blended beverages are twists on classic tea and coffee favorites infused with unexpected ingredients.

• Irish Cream Coffee Pudding Frappuccino: A coffee pudding base is infused with rich Irish Cream flavor, then topped with fluffy espresso whipped cream and finely ground espresso powder.
• Matcha Earl Grey Jelly Frappuccino: A bright layer of green tea gives this beverage its distinctive summer color, and traditional Earl Grey tea is transformed into a delightful jelly layer and finished with fluffy whipped cream and Matcha powder.
• Banana Split Frappuccino: Like a drinkable ice cream sundae, this beverage combines sweet strawberry whipped cream and refreshing banana and mocha, which is blended and topped with a fluffy vanilla whipped cream. Chunky and crunchy waffle pieces complete this nostalgic summer treat.
 
“We experimented with different combinations of flavors to create new sensory experiences,” said Michele Waits, vice president, Marketing & Category, Starbucks Asia Pacific. ”The striking layers, textures and flavors make each Starbucks Frappuccino distinctive.”

For both beverages and food ingredients, an indulgent experience is what motivates consumers to revisit our customers’ products and want to repeat their experience in consuming our ingredients. FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Luc Steenwelle, Product Group Manager Beverages Asia at FrieslandCampina Kievit who said that creaminess is most certainly a key aspect of an indulgent experience. “Within both the beverage and food ingredients segments, we have performed extensive research to study what comprises an indulgent experience in order to identify what makes beverage and food applications delightful.” 

“In the case of coffee and tea for example, around the globe, people increasingly perceive creaminess as a seductive alternative to plain black variants. But what is creaminess? Everyone wants it, but no one can put their finger on what it really means,” he explains.  

“The right level of creaminess in these beverages can be complex to achieve, and is based on not just taste but also mouthfeel, aroma, and appearance. Achieving the perfect blend that appeals to all senses is an intricate matter. Additionally, depending on where you are in the world, the definition of ‘creaminess’ is different according to regional and cultural interpretations.”

FrieslandCampina Kievit’s sensory experts have studied more than 300 products to find out what the attributes of ‘creaminess’ are, and what makes it so irresistible across geographies. The study revealed eight leading attributes of creaminess in 3-in-1 coffee applications: creamy flavor, coffee-roasted flavor, sweetness, milky flavor, white & cream color, thickness, softness, and filming. The results led to the launch of their new Creaminess portfolio, which now enables manufacturers in Southeast Asia to tailor their end product to the specific wishes of consumers in different countries. 

Click to EnlargeSteenwelle explains further: “Our research has proven that an indulgent experience is a flawless combination of multiple characteristics, including creaminess. These combinations may vary per market, as there is a variation in desire. Thanks to our new portfolio, we are able to tailor our customers’ products to specific market needs. It’s our unique ability to deliver a complete sensory package and consistent quality that differentiates us as a company.”

According to Steenwelle, there are two aspects in an indulgent experience. “One appeals strongly to the senses, leaving consumers with a pleasing rich flavor that they can savor. The trend in creamy treats as the ultimate in luxury and indulgence continues to rise in both the beverage- and food ingredients segment. Also, people now prefer to treat themselves with a cappuccino over a plain black coffee, and enjoy a delicious cake or muffin. The moments we take to indulge in a smooth, rich cup of coffee or a sweet cupcake are an escape from the stress that daily life brings. Whether home alone with a comforting bowl of soup, or in a café sipping a latte macchiato with the people we cherish most, these moments are vital to our wellbeing.” 

“The other aspect is the growing number of consumers that wish to have a clear conscience with regards to their consumption,”  he states. “Consumers are demanding more from the products they taste to make them feel good, not only in terms of their taste buds, but also in their choices as ethical, educated consumers. In an age of polarization, populism, and “post-truth”, transparency and authenticity are paramount in the food and beverage sector. By increasing the number of natural ingredients and meeting a large number of clean label requirements at pan-product-range level, our goal is to enable consumers to fully engage in everyday luxury, leaving all their worries behind.” 

According to the Director of Innovation, Lu Ann William of Innova Market Insights: “Consumers’ palates are being tested more than ever before; with a wide range of novel ingredient applications in beverages for new taste experiences, as well as health benefits.”

A recent consumer survey showed that 47 percent of US consumers’ main reason for choosing a new flavor when buying a beverage is a curiosity to discover new flavors.

“In addition, there seems to be a growing demand for more rich and indulgent flavors and creamy flavors have really started to play on that need,” says Williams. 

Confectionery and chocolate are also areas where indulgence drives purchases. Premiumization is a key strategy for the creation of confectionery products that truly stand out on the shelf.  “Innovation in flavors, textures and packaging is key,” she notes. 

Williams notes how results from a different consumer survey found that 56 percent of US consumers buy chocolate because they are either “looking for indulgence,” or “looking for pleasure.”

Today’s consumer is looking for an ever-more indulgent experience, across flavor, texture and color, inspiring new levels of creativity in foods around the world.  In particular for flavors, vegetable and chocolate combinations have become popular across a range of categories, such as kale flavor fillings in chocolate bars and chocolate featuring alongside beetroot in cakes. 

Texture is evolving towards more indulgence, with larger chocolate chunk inclusions as well as new combinations of textures such as crispy chocolate layers on top of creamy desserts. Additionally, cocoa powder is increasingly being used to play with shades and add depth of color.

Brigitte Bayart, Senior Marketing Manager, Chocolate, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate spoke with FoodIngredientsFirst about what indulgent flavor mean to Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. 

“Our recent trends report, ‘Stay Ahead of Consumer Tastes’ features examples of indulgent flavors,” she says. “These include the traditional caramel, coffee, hazelnut flavors which remain popular. However there are other more innovative flavors coming through which include lemonade and cola, marshmallows and liquorice, and milkshake. Savory flavors combined with chocolate are also becoming more popular, such as salted biscuits with vegetables and even bacon,” she notes. Click to Enlarge
 
According to Bayart consumers are looking for flavors that delight, surprising textures and a full color palette. “Besides more traditional smooth and creamy textures, new more creative textures are coming through. Bigger chocolate inclusions are being used for more bite, crispy inclusions are being included in soft fillings, and snappy chocolate toppings are being used in creamy desserts.”
  
Having said this, indulgence doesn’t have to mean high in sugar or fat and Cargill represent this with a range of reduced sugar chocolate and coatings and fillings, and stevia-sweetened chocolate coatings and fillings. Bayart adds: “We also offer lactose free dark chocolate, chocolate with no hydrogenated fats, and natural flavors in coatings and fillings, for example strawberry and lemon.”

“A major focus for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate at the moment is reformulating to reduce sugar content, while keeping the recipe as clean as possible,” she claims.

“Other big trends currently are the growth in organic and single origin ingredients, alongside sustainable ingredients. Vegan products and ingredients are also a growth area. All of these trends present opportunities for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, and our expertise enables us to help our customers to respond to these growing trends.

For Ingredion, delivering a pleasurable sensory experience is key to consumers viewing a particular product as indulgent. Severine Bensa, European Marketing Manager for Texture at Ingredion told FoodIngredientsFirst that the term ‘indulgent’ has a different meaning to different people, depending on their preferred eating style. 

She explains: “For a long time, we believed that flavour dictated our everyday eating habits, however other senses, in particular mouthfeel play a critical role. Ingredion performed studies on the different ways people consume and enjoy their food. This identified four predominant types of eating styles: Crunchers, Smooshers, Chewers and Suckers.”

“For instance, a yogurt with a rich, creamy mouthfeel may well provide an indulgent experience for Smooshers, who use both their tongue and palate to mash the food into a soft mass that can be held in the mouth for a long time. While Crunchers, who eat their food forcefully and want to be able to crunch until it’s gone, will find more satisfaction snacking on the likes of crisps, cookies and nuts with hard and crunchy shells,” says Bensa.

“Therefore if the texture of a product doesn’t align with consumers’ preferences, many won’t view the experience as indulgent and importantly, repeat the purchase.”

Click to EnlargeAccording to Bensa, indulgence is personal. “Each consumer is different but texture is big part of indulgence and deriving pleasure from food. They eat differently and will be satisfied by different types of textures,” she notes. 

“There is no one size fits all for an indulgent texture, we know that consumers experience the same foods differently. Significant data has emerged suggesting that texture (mouthfeel) is the new taste and an integral factor in consumer preference.” 

For true indulgence, manufacturers must meet their target consumers’ textural needs and deliver a pleasurable taste. This could be rich and creamy but it could also be crunchy and crispy. “It’s all about knowing your consumer,” adds Bensa.  

But indulgent foods don't have to be sugary or high in fat content. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious resulting in a growing demand for delicious and nutritious yet indulgent treats. However, while consumers continue to show an increasing appetite for products that carry a health message, they don't want to compromise on taste, texture and a pleasurable eating experience. What’s more, when many think about highly indulgent products, many think of them as high in fat, sugar or salt treats that aren’t particularly nutritious. 

“The perception of freshness is crucial to the sensory experience and a growing part of product success,” she notes. 

“Something as simple as a warm, rich bowl of soup, brimming with authentic flavors and home-cooked texture, can transform a rushed dinner after a busy day into a comforting, nourishing experience. From refrigerated prepared soups that reheat with made-from-scratch appeal to frozen pastries that taste just-baked, we are using our ingredients and expertise to help ensure products are bursting with freshness and last longer on the shelf, in refrigerators and in homes,” Bensa finalizes. 

by Elizabeth Green

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