National Starch Food Innovation this summer inaugurated its Texture Center of Excellence, a state-of-the-art facility devoted to the understanding and improvement of texture in prepared foods and beverages. Located at the company’s global headquarters in Bridgewater, N.J., the facility supports National Starch’s programs to meet the growing industry need for texture expertise and control, and it promises to accelerate innovation and new product development, according to Joseph Light, senior director, customer solutions and product innovation. In the facility’s Texture Center and Process Innovation Center, National Starch’s innovation and manufacturing teams optimize and scale up new products and refine manufacturing processes for the company’s 10 production facilities around the globe. The Texture Center includes a focus group room with an observation area, a computerized descriptive analysis room, a culinary kitchen, isolated testing booths, and client meeting rooms. The new facility also is equipped with specialized instrumentation to conduct texture characterization. At the Texture Center, National Starch’s Culinology Team blends culinary arts and food science in its new high-tech kitchen. All members of the Culinology Team have a background in starch science and culinary. The center also includes a Consumer Insights department, featuring a focus group room, with audio and video capabilities, as well as a viewing room. In addition, the facility incorporates MIND, a National Starch acronym for “Meaning though Image-based Narrative Discovery,” research to link terms to emotions. MIND will enable the company to develop a consumer lexicon, to connect consumer emotions to the beverage and food consumed. It also allows for mapping of attributes to better understand consumer drivers and needs, as well as the marketing efforts that might work best. In addition to the Culinology Team, the Texture Center houses two other groups of experts who are developing scientific profiles of and practical applications for beverage and food textures â€” the Sensory Team and Materials Scientists and Rheologists Team. The Sensory Team, working with trained descriptive panelists, encompasses three areas: a focus group, sensory kitchens and analysis, to translate consumer insights into terms that formulators can understand and formulate around. The analysis will study ingredient acceptability, appraisals and focus group reactions. Descriptive analysis will help to understand how to manipulate texture, for instance. It will help in the development of the aforementioned lexicon, which also benefits from an external panel of members. The lexicon also will emerge from industry norms, university programs and experts, as well as National Starch expertise in the areas of material science, marketing, applications and sensory. Already, the groundwork is being laid to create terms and scales for liquids, solids and semi-solids. In the Texture Characterization Lab, a team of materials scientists and rheologists rapidly measure the texture of materials and design new functional systems using specially engineered, robotic equipment. The Texture Characterization Lab is expected to deliver faster ingredient design and enable faster beverage and food formulations an estimated 10 times faster than traditional bench-level development. nï€ National Starch Food Innovation, 10 Finderne Ave., Bridgewater, N.J. 08807-3300; 800/797-4992; foodinnovation.com.