Cargill announced initial findings from its multi-year research program to understand how beverage ingredients interact to affect taste, sweetness and mouthfeel at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Food Expo. Preliminary results of research in lemon-lime beverages validate Cargill's new approach to reduced calorie beverage formulations by confirming that there is a connection between key mouthfeel sensations and consumers' liking of the beverage.
"When replacing a nutritive sweetener with a high potency sweetener, the industry has historically focused on the addition of flavors to minimize the taste differences between diet and full calorie beverages, but until now, little innovation has occurred in the area of mouthfeel optimization," said Brian Guthrie, research fellow, Cargill Global Food Research. "This study was designed to understand how replacing a nutritive sweetener with a high potency sweetener creates differences in the taste, sweetness and mouthfeel.
At Cargill, our hypothesis was that consumer liking of a product is driven by sweetness, flavor and mouthfeel, and the key to creating better-tasting reduced calorie products is to formulate with ingredients that balance all three."
The R&D program consisted of sensory and consumer testing to understand how beverage ingredients interact to affect taste, sweetness and mouthfeel, and ultimately drive overall consumer liking. It was conducted at North Carolina State University's Sensory Science Center. Over the three initial phases of research, a total of 600 diet and regular consumers provided overall liking and attribute liking scores for 18 commercial and numerous prototype lemon-lime soft drinks. Descriptive analysis was also performed on the same beverages using a trained 10-person sensory panel and expanded lexicon of 28 sensory attributes that allowed the determination of consumer drivers of liking.
Specific findings from the study include:
Identifying the sensory gap between diet and full calorie commercial lemon-lime soft drinks.
This portion of the research program revealed that mouthfeel was consistently different among diet and full calorie products. Full calorie lemon-lime drinks always scored higher in "tongue heaviness" mouthfeel attributes. Diet scored higher for "sweet," "sour," "bitter" and "metallic" aftertaste attributes, indicating that major sensory gaps still exist.
Identifying which current ingredients or ingredient systems are effective in reducing the sensory gap.
In the second phase of the research program, Cargill found that all ingredients and ingredient systems contributing to sweetness, flavor and texture had an effect on flavor, aftertaste and mouthfeel attributes.
Further, some ingredient systems significantly reduced one or two sensory-gap attributes and a few systems significantly reduced more than two sensory-gap attributes, but none were able to completely eliminate the sensory-gap.
Evaluating the role of lubricity—how a beverage interacts with the consumer's tongue, gums, teeth and palate—in sensory attributes.
The third component of the research program found that sensory attributes are correlated with friction and not just viscosity (thickness) and density as the industry previously thought. Specifically, when the data set was restricted to samples with viscosities relevant to carbonated lemon-lime soft drinks, viscosity and density were no longer correlated to mouthfeel attributes, but lubricity was.
Further, this R&D program has proven that Cargill's technology for measuring mouthfeel in order to close sensory gaps in reduced calorie beverages works.
Compared to other analytical measurements, Cargill's technology—which is part of TasteWise(TM) reduced calorie beverages—provides unique information in low viscosity beverages that cannot be provided by using traditional industry measurements of viscosity, density or osmolality.
Evaluating the relationship between mouthfeel attributes and consumer liking.
The final step of the program confirms a connection between key mouthfeel sensations and consumer liking. The sensory and consumer liking panels determined that mouthfeel is a driver of liking in lemon-lime beverages for certain segments of consumers, and that diet beverages lack mouthfeel.
"Now that we can measure mouthfeel gaps in reduced calorie beverages, formulators can better understand how to close them and tweak sweetener, flavor and texturizing ingredients accordingly," said Andy del Rosal, team leader of Cargill's beverage applications scientists in North America.
"Based on this new research, Cargill has built a deeper understanding of three factors that affect the taste experience of beverages—sweetness, flavor and mouthfeel—and how to balance them to optimize the consumer taste experience."
Cargill commercializes its new approach to reduced calorie beverage formulation as TasteWise(TM) reduced calorie solutions. Launched in March 2011, TasteWise(TM) reduced calorie solutions allow beverage makers to deliver better-tasting, reduced-calorie products using Cargill's patent-pending technology, application capabilities and ingredients by optimizing the balance between texture, sweetness and flavor.
For the complete story of which sweeteners - and sweetener combinations - consumers are looking for, check out the new Ingredient Intelligence Monograph on the sweetener sector.
Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 131,000 people in 66 countries. Cargill helps customers succeed through collaboration and innovation, and is committed to applying its global knowledge and experience to help meet economic, environmental and social challenges wherever it does business. For more information, visit www.cargill.com.