National Starch Food Innovation recently opened its Texture Center of Excellence. The Bridgewater, N.J.-based company inaugurated its new state-of-the-art facility on June 5, as nationally recognized chefs, sensory and rheology experts joined company personnel and more than 60 food industry representatives.
Wylie Dufresne, founder and chef of wd-50, named as one of New York City's five best restaurants in New York magazine's 2006 survey, and Alex Stupak, pastry chef at wd-50, began the day with demonstrations showing how food science and culinary skills can deliver distinctive textures. They later collaborated with National Starch's culinology team in its new, high-tech kitchen on a texture-inspired tasting menu for a Champagne reception. In addition, Gail Vance Civille, president, Sensory Spectrum Inc., New Providence, N.J., showed how to use sensory evaluation to develop products with sensory qualities that please consumers. Dr. Jozef Kokini, associate dean for research, Bingham Professor of Food Engineering, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, discussed the use of scientific methods, such as rheology, to define the dimensions of texture and investigate consumer perception of qualities, such as creaminess.
In addition to the culinology team, the new Texture Center houses the sensory team, who will work with trained descriptive panelists on translating consumers' basic descriptions of food textures, such as smooth, crunchy, creamy and rich, into a comprehensive lexicon of technical terms that can be applied to product development. In the Texture Characterization lab, a team of material scientists and rheologists will rapidly measure the texture of various materials and design new functional systems using specially engineered robotic equipment. A focus group room also is available to customers for eliciting consumer insights about foods and their textures throughout the development process.