Nearly 70% of today’s adult Americans are considered to be overweight or obese, and the consequences of this epidemic are dramatic. Obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer have associated medical costs estimated to be between $150 and nearly $210 billion every year. With growing concern about their health and wellbeing, consumers are looking for healthy and satisfying foods to help them combat this trend.
In response, food and beverage manufacturers are racing to satisfy the desire for products that can “do it all” by offering foods that are healthy, taste great, and are filling. However, this begs the big question: what makes a person feel full, other than eating massive amounts of food?
The Psychology of Fullness
Studies have shown that there are a number of elements at work to make our stomachs tell our minds that we’ve had enough. Actual physical fullness is certainly a factor of how satisfied the stomach is, but psychology is another. There appears to be a connection between the thickness of a product and a person’s perception of being satisfied – satiety. According to foodnavigator.com, a recent research has shown that by altering the texture of a food to increase a person’s perception of “thickness” and “creaminess” can work to increase the expectation that the food is in fact filling.
One study, published in the journal Appetite, looked at the role of certain sensory attributes in the level of satiety of dairy products. They found that when the thickness of a product was increased, there was an increase in the expectation of satiety (while flavor, interestingly, had no effect).
What this means, according to the study, is that sensory attributes – specifically thickness – play an important role in eating behavior by promoting the intake of particular foods. In other words, a product that’s thick would be more appealing to someone who’s trying to make healthy choices and keep weight gain at bay, like a choosing Greek yogurt instead of a non-Greek yogurt or a thick cheese sauce versus one that’s less viscous.
An article in Food Business News recently affirmed this concept by saying,. “satiety is influenced by a food when it is first viewed then consumed, and continues as the food enters the gastrointestinal system and is digested and absorbed. There are visual cues that suggest a food may be satiating. For example, both a creamy and a clear beverage might possess the same caloric content and a similar nutrient profile, yet the creamy beverage may be perceived as being more filling.”
How to Achieve Natural Thickness
So, what does this mean for product development professionals and food scientists? Developing a healthy (meaning, usually, low-fat) cheese sauce that’s thick and creamy is difficult; it’s made even tougher if the manufacturer wants to eliminate as many stabilizers and emulsifiers as possible in order to make the label of the product cleaner.
One way to achieve the balance consumers are looking for when it comes to dressings, sauces, dips, soups and similar products, is that thickness can easily be achieved naturally, with products like Grande Custom Ingredients Group’s Grande Bravo® functional whey proteins. These natural whey products allow manufacturers to reduce the amount of fat and cream in a formulation without affecting the texture; in fact, these whey proteins often improve the texture while reducing fat content. As cream and butter are often some of the more costly ingredients in a product, this also reduces the cost.
In the long run, a thicker, creamier product consumers believe will (or does) make them fuller – and of no less importance, that tastes great. All of this while featuring as few “unhealthy” ingredients as possible – so your product will not just satisfy their hunger but their overall desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And, more importantly, will ensure that they’re not part of the 70% of American’s in the dreaded obesity category.
If your product could benefit from a natural approach to improving its texture, we’d be happy to talk about the potential of our natural dairy products to solve that and other formulation challenges.