Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion and includes the principles of friction, lubrication and wear. When it comes to food and beverages, tribology is used to mimic oral processing (eating) and can be used to provide insights into the sensory perception of food texture. Oral processing includes the breakdown of food particles (via chewing), the incorporation of saliva and the roles of the teeth and tongue as food is eaten.
A large part of Fonterra’s business is the manufacture and sale of ready-to-consume dairy products including plain & flavoured milks, yoghurts and cheeses. Before a product makes it to the supermarket shelves, we want to have an understanding of the in-mouth texture of the product to ensure that it matches consumer expectations. Sensory panels are an option for gaining this information but require lots of time and people resource.
Fonterra has recently started measuring tribology as part of our new product development process. This technique is relatively new to us and we believe that we are not utilising the data to its full potential. We are keen to move beyond using the mean tribology measure for comparisons to sensory perception, to a more sophisticated tribology to sensory model.