Cambridge University and mystery industry backer to explore heat tolerant chocolate

By Vladimir Pekic

- Last updated on GMT

Project for non-melt chocolate to build on existing research, says Cambridge University
Project for non-melt chocolate to build on existing research, says Cambridge University

Related tags Chemistry

Scientists at the University of Cambridge are to research how to keep chocolate from melting in hot, tropical regions.

The university’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, financially supported by an undisclosed industry backer, will investigate how chocolate can remain solid and retain qualities sought by consumers – when stored in warm climates.

Chocolate for the tropics

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Dr Ian Wilson from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, said that as the pace of life and accessibility to commodities increased, the chocolate industry needed to adapt.

“Whereas previously customers might not expect to be able to eat chocolate in the tropics, today there is an expectation of being able to access everything everywhere. So new product principles are required and that's what motivates the funding behind this research​,” said Wilson.

“The project’s aims are to understand how chocolate - which is a complex multiphase material from a scientific perspective - can be made to retain its shape and product qualities when stored at warmer temperatures. The project will explore the underpinning science,”​ he continued.

Not a ‘Doctorate of Chocolate’

The university is offering an industrial, fully-funded 3.5-year multidisciplinary PhD studentship to EU nationals who are willing to study the fundamentals of heat-stable chocolate.

 “There are many scientific learnings too, in combining the chemistry of non-covalent bonding, aspects of crystallization and soft solids (rheology and soil mechanics) in this project. This is not a  ‘Doctorate of Chocolate’ but a PhD in complex materials science and engineering,”​ said Wilson.

Mondelēz International-owned Cadbury filed a patent​ for temperature tolerant chocolate in November 2012 that involved re-refining chocolate after the conching step. Nestlé filed its own patent​ shortly afterwards in which little or no sugar or polyols were added to the chocolate core and instead humectant liquids were added to a “tropicalized shell”​ for the product.

This year, Mars developed its own method​, which involved adding a polyol - preferably glycerin - and a thermal structuring component such as dextrose to the formulation.

Backer has existing technology

The project sponsor of Cambridge’s new chocolate research has existing technology in this field, but when asked who was financing the research, Penrose said that the University was “not able to disclose this information​”.

The principal investigator on this work is my colleague [University of Cambridge’s Reader in Chemical Engineering] Dr Ian Wilson​,” Professor Nigel K.H. Slater, Head of the Chemical Engineering Department, told ConfectioneryNews.

Wilson is actively engaged in the Paste, Particle and Polymer Processing group that studies soft solids and surfaces with particular applications in the food, pharma and chemicals industries. The group’s ongoing projects, among others, include the rheology of bubbly liquids in cake batters.

The experimental chocolate project will start on January 2015 and it will employ methods from a range of engineering and physical science disciplines. 

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