Sainsbury’s has become the first supermarket to introduce a ‘Crunch-o-meter’ to its suite of in-house quality control technology, helping ensure its own-brand snacks maintain the ideal level of crunch.
Everything from crisps to crackers, peanuts to pretzels undergo rigorous testing in the Sainsbury’s Product Quality Laboratory by the machine, which measures the force needed to break each product. The reading is then compared to a pre-set ‘crunch range’, which is determined by human tasters during product development.
This will be welcome news to Britons preparing for Christmas, who voted crunchless crisps as the top food fail in a new study, followed by limp biscuits and then crackers with no crack. These came ahead of unripe avocados, floury apples and even over-cooked toast! Cardiff, Edinburgh and Sheffield bucked the national trend, putting soft biscuits ahead of crunch-free crisps.
The study also showed that for one third of consumers, quality nibbles are just as important as the Christmas dinner itself. As a result, they feel pressure to serve the perfect festive snacks that everyone will enjoy.
Juliette Jahaj, Head of Analytical Testing at Sainsbury’s, said: “The results from the study further validate the importance of the work we do in our Product Quality Laboratory. We have been investing in the quality of our Christmas products throughout the year, so whether it’s turkey with all the trimmings or a bowl of crisps with the perfect crunch, our customers can rely on us for great quality products.”
The job of Sainsbury’s Product Quality Laboratory is to introduce consistently accurate analytical measurements into the quality control process, which is traditionally reliant on subjective measures, like human taste tests. Once the tasters have agreed on a level of crunch that people enjoy, the lab creates a ‘crunch range’ for that product, against which all future batches are measured.
While the perfect level of crunch is essential to a good eating experience, the Sainsbury’s report also revealed a small down-side to crunch-tastic snacks – one in 10 people admit to having a relative renowned for unnecessarily loud chewing or crunching. Dads were identified as the biggest culprits for this noisy snacking!
Juliette Jahaj, at Sainsbury’s continues: “To help people who may be hosting prolific crunchers this Christmas, we’ve put our ‘Crunch-o-meter’ to work and created a guide to peaceful snacking.
“The guide ranks snacks on their crunchiness, so people might decide to serve a quieter option such as our hand-cooked crisps during the annual viewing of Love Actually and go all out with crunchier options like breadsticks during a rowdy board game.”
Before each use, the ‘Crunch-o-meter’ is calibrated to make sure it gives accurate readings. This is done with a specially-designed weight.
The machine can use a variety of probes. Each one is specially designed for different products, textures, shapes and levels of crunch. For example, a 0.25inch diameter spherical probe is used on a special support rig to test the crispness of crisps.
Adjustments need to be made for variables such as thickness and also for inclusions like chocolate chips or fruit to ensure an accurate reading is given.
During testing, multiple samples throughout each pack are randomly selected and tested to ensure the quality is consistent.