The device is used in conjunction with the company’s texture analyzer to check the consistency of food, such as bread, biscuits and chocolate and can test the force at which a product breaks using the video, which can capture 50 frames per second as opposed to an average 20 frames per second.
Mark Proto, MD, Stable Micro Systems, said texture needs to be measured by food manufacturers to produce consistent products. If they are changing a product, a process or ingredients they need to know they will end up with the same product.
“The system will be particularly valuable in the bakery, snack and confectionery market because it can measure the force to snap or break a biscuit or measure the freshness of bread, for example. But it’s not just the force that is of interest, but, in relation to the video, where the product breaks,” he said.
“This could evolve from a problem to do with transportation, moving the product onto a line once it’s been baked or set so there are things you can do, not only measuring the force, but you can see when you apply a load on that product and where it will break.”
Proto added things haven’t changed in the industry for some time as people always want to measure the texture of food. The problem is, he said, is that is very subjective, based on ‘mouth feel’, which is different from one person to the next and all manufacturers of food products are interested in texture to a greater or lesser degree.
“Asia is the fastest developing nation in terms of our industry and we have seen an increase in our business there because a lot more manufacturers are starting up in the country and there is a lot more investment and more money available,” addd Proto.
“We sell a lot of our equipment to labs, research departments and universities, to check the consistency of food so that people feel like they are getting value for money.
“This is an industry first for us, which means even the quickest tests can be viewed and analyzed in minute detail. The new system includes a moveable video camera, a transparent test platform, which permits recordings from underneath the sample, and an optional light attachment.”
To carry out a test, the camera is placed in the most appropriate location for testing. As the TA.XTplus texture analyser begins collecting data, a signal is sent to the Video Capture Interface, which starts recording up to 50 frames per second.
Data is collected and analysed by Stable Micro Systems’ software, Exponent. When it is played back afterwards, each video frame is automatically synchronised with the data points on the force-time graph, meaning it can be related to visual events on the product.
Huge leap forward
Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems, said the system represents a ‘huge leap forward in texture analysis for the food industry’.
“Decisive visual aspects of a test can be easily missed by the human eye, but are critical to understanding a product’s textural and sensory appeal,” she said.
“A biscuit, for example, can snap or crumble very quickly, making it impossible for human observers to note the exact point at which it broke. Similarly, it’s difficult to watch with the naked eye the fracture of a potato crisp.
“Automatically correlating the peaks and troughs of a force-distance-time graph with frame by frame video recordings means the exact behaviour of a sample can be recorded, interpreted and re-examined as often as is needed.”