The shape of chocolate can affect flavour and texture perception, according to a study published in the journal LWT – Food Science and Technology.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Nestlé Research Centre, backs the opinion of many consumers on internet forums who complained en masse about a change in the taste of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate when the company changed its shape last year, but not its recipe. Particularly vocal on Mumsnet, critics insisted that the new, rounder shape didn’t taste the same – and this new research suggests they may have had a point.
The Nestlé scientists found significant differences among ten different chocolate shapes in terms of melting characteristics and smoothness, and smaller differences in perception of cocoa and caramel flavours and aftertaste. Melting perception was not correlated with flavour intensity, they found.
They also found that a round shape was one of the best shapes for melting and smoothness.
“This study also highlighted promising shapes for future product development,” the researchers wrote. “The Wing and the Sail shapes were the most delivering in terms of flavour (high cocoa, high caramel notes and high aftertaste) whereas Round and Rectangle shapes were the most delivering in terms of texture (high melting, high smoothness).”
Sensory tests were conducted with 12 trained female subjects with an average age of 45. They were instructed to let the chocolate melt in their mouth without biting into it.
The researchers wrote: “Flavour release and flavour perception might be enhanced not only when a shape melts at an optimum rate to release a maximum amount of aroma compounds but also when the shape allows an important volume for freely circulating air in the mouth.”
As for the shape of Dairy Milk, the rounder shape could mean the chocolate melts faster than the previous angular shape, thereby releasing different compounds at a faster rate and affecting flavour perception.
Meanwhile, Cadbury has defended the new shape of its product, saying that it improves ‘melt-in-the-mouth experience’.
Source: LWT – Food Science and Technology
Vol. 51, Iss. 2, May 2013, pp 545–552
“Impact of the shape on sensory properties of individual dark chocolate pieces”
Authors: Francine Lenfant, Christoph Hartmann, Brigitte Watzke, Olivier Breton, Chrystel Loret, Nathalie Martin