A multi-stage thickening composition for use in facilitating the handling and
packaging of a food product, and for providing a desired final shape and texture
for the food product. Relatively rapid-setting and slower-setting consumable gels
form one preferred thickening composition. The rapid-setting gel allows the food
product to be shaped and packaged, while the slower-setting gel allows the food
product to be provided with desired texture characteristics that appeal to the consumer.