How to create healthier and tastier food with sensory analysis

9 Dec 2021


How to create healthier and tastier food with sensory analysis 

All over the world, consumers are attaching more and more importance to a balanced diet of high quality food that has a positive impact on their health. Sugar reduced products are an important pillar in such a diet, as the health risks associated with high sugar intake are very severe. But just reducing sugar is not an option, as this will impact both the taste and texture of products. Discover the new sensory analysis method that Puratos uses to create healthier food without compromising taste and quality.

Global need for healthier food

The latest Taste Tomorrow survey showed that health is increasingly important for consumers all over the world. They want products with more power ingredients like fibre, wholegrains and protein, and they look for fewer calories and less fat, salt and sugar. When it comes to sugar, it is well known that excessive sugar consumption is key in several non-communicable diseases such as overweight and obesity, tooth decay, cancer and diabetes. 45% of consumers worldwide believe that reducing sugar content will contribute to better health.

In response to this global public concern, Puratos is taking a stand by focusing formulation and reformulation efforts on developing a wide range of sugar reduced solutions. These solutions deliver the high standard of taste and texture for which Puratos is prised, while helping consumers to lower their overall sugar consumption and increase their access to more balanced food options.

The effects of sugar reduction on taste

While it seems obvious that the industry should ‘just reduce the amount of sugar’, it’s fair to say it’s not that simple. Because there is more to sugar than just sweetness. Some examples: in cakes, sugar helps the product to remain moist and fresh, and it gives the product a golden crust. In chocolate, sugar provides not only texture and mouthfeel, but also a bulking effect. And fruit and cream fillings benefit from a better texture and mouthfeel with sugar, as well as longer shelf life. Since sugar is multifunctional, Puratos has three golden rules when developing sugar reduced products. And we involve our Group Sensory team.

The impact of sugar reduced fillings on the taste of finished goods

Reducing sugar in a fruit filling might impact the flavour and mouthfeel of the product. But what happens when the filling is applied in a finished good? Which sensations are perceived? How does it impact the taste? And can we improve the taste & texture of the finished good by changing the improver used in the dough?

That’s what the Group Sensory team has been investigating. Together with the business units Bakery Improvers and Fruits, they’ve been working on a new sensory method to describe complex bakery items combining several types of ingredients (like improver, fat, glaze, decoration and filling): the multi-bite method.

The purpose of this new method is to better understand the consumer preferences for finished goods. It can be done with both consumers and expert sensory judges. Consumers have to give their appreciation for the different bites, while experts have to describe the mouthfeel and flavour sensations perceived in the bites.

Results of the multi-bite test for soft filled croissants

This new sensory method was used to evaluate soft filled croissants with sugar-reduced apricot filling, compared to croissants with a regular apricot filling (both from the Vivafil line of Puratos), and croissants without filling. It was tested together with bakery improvers (Soft’r Melting CL NG (longer shelf-life improver) & Soft’r Alpaga CL NG (shorter shelf life improver) that are used to keep the crumb more soft, moist and melting; strong drivers of consumer liking in soft croissants.

Overall, the test showed that the bites without filling are perceived as much softer, moister and more melting for croissants containing Soft’r Melting CL NG vs Soft’r Alpaga CL NG.

The type of filling does not impact the perception of the crumb: this was expected because both fillings have the same water activity. Belgian consumers tend to prefer bites with Soft’r Melting. 

Regarding the bites with filling, the results showed again an impact of Soft’r Melting improver on perceived moistness and melting. But the type of filling used has almost no impact on the perceived fruitiness and sweetness of the bites! Expert sensory judges cannot discriminate the croissants clearly on their taste & flavour. This is even more true for consumers, who like all products equally. Great news for the Vivafil Sugar Reduced line that keeps the same great taste but is healthier with 30% sugar!

Focus on sensory interactions between ingredients

The multi-bite approach is a very interesting way to focus on sensory interactions between ingredients, and to find out which combinations have the most potential in terms of taste. 

This method can be used on easy type of application (bakery or patisserie) combining different types of Puratos ingredients.

Sensory analysis is very important for Puratos, as it allows us to translate consumer wishes, perception and preferences into recipes and process specifications. Learn about our golden rules for sensory analysis, our Sensory Panel and about our mobile sensory solution, the Sensobus.