BOCA RATON, FLA. — Consumer research undertaken by Ingredion, Inc. led the Westchester, Ill.-based company to focus in on creating more value from texture, said James P. Zallie, president and chief executive officer.

“We believe that texture plays an underappreciated but critical role in how consumers like or don’t like the food they eat or … the skin care cream that they apply,” Zallie said during a Feb. 21 presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference.

“Texture isn’t just felt in the mouth, as mouthfeel,” Zallie said. “It can be perceived or visualized by the appearance of the food before you put it in your mouth. It certainly can impact the release of flavor and thus, overall taste. It can also impact the sound food makes when food is chewed. And all of these factors combined impact consumers’ overall liking.”

He said Ingredion believes there is an opportunity to further examine the relationship between the role flavors and texturizers play, especially when it comes to the formulation of healthy foods. Research backs up that belief, he said, pointing to studies that have shown that prominently featured texture attributes can drive up to 70% of why a consumer prefers a certain product.

Zallie said the market for texturizing ingredients is “a large addressable market that is growing steadily,” with Ingredion standing out as a leader in starches and as a notable player in hydrocolloids and fibers.

He said the company’s market insights group has found superior texture for taste is foundational for consumer preference.

“For example, 70% of consumers agreed texture gave food and beverages a more interesting eating experience,” Zallie said. “Think for a moment about boba tea, which has gained popularity and contains tapioca pearls, which is basically tapioca starch and some hydrocolloids to keep the product to have its integrity in a beverage. And 84% of consumers associated a lighter texture with healthier options. Think rice cakes or rice crisps, for example.”