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Unlocking hidden messages in chocolate [Interview]

Article-Unlocking hidden messages in chocolate [Interview]

How many sensory attributes are there to describe the experience of eating chocolate?

105 according to a new book co-authored by Renata Januszewska, Barry Callebaut’s Global R&D Sensory Manager. ‘Hidden Persuaders of Cocoa and Chocolate’ offers R&D professionals a unique tool with which to describe the sensory attributes for the purposes of new product development and quality improvement.

What are your key responsibilities as a Global R&D Sensory Manager?

“At Barry Callebaut (BC), I am responsible for defining sensory methods and best practices by establishing manuals, protocols and training references. I am also an internal sensory liaison within BC regarding the creation and implementation of the harmonized language, the provision of sensory tool-boxes and sensory consultancy. I am responsible for testing and validating usefulness of new data collection systems. Finally, I cooperate with global customers for sensory-related projects.”

You co-wrote a book entitled ‘Hidden Persuaders of Cocoa and Chocolate’. What inspired you? Who are the other authors and what are their specialties?

“From cocoa farmers, through cocoa and chocolate production experts, to product developers and end consumers, all of us need to understand each other’s sensory language. The book ‘Hidden Persuaders of Cocoa and Chocolate’, creates an opportunity for aligned communication and attempts to unlock hidden messages in cocoa and chocolate. The ambition is to switch from an often ‘subconscious/emotional’ to a more ‘conscious/analytical’ approach.”

“Each author of the book contributed to a unique part of the information presented. BC experts are primarily responsible for cocoa and chocolate specific information regarding sensory, marketing and chemical composition of each flavour. Positive emotions, linked to tastes, flavours, and notes, come from extensive research by Givaudan’s experts. Negative emotions are linked to off-flavours observed by BC scientists, during multiple quality assurance or shelf life studies, as well as during the testing of new products.”

What kind of research have you done for the purpose of writing this book?

“The final selection and description of 105 sensory attributes presented in this book is based on a review of existing cocoa and chocolate flavour wheels and numerous scientific papers describing sensory evaluation of cocoa and chocolate. A systematic review and validation of the selected terminology allowed to narrow down the sensory attributes into eight flavour levels (Taste-Cocoa-Brown-Dairy-Fruit-Botanical-Trigeminal-Atypical). For these flavours levels, we further developed the sensory definition, key taste compound, taste description, key aroma compound(s), flavour description, notes description, trigeminal effect, smell description, chocolate tasting and finally we indicated associated emotions.”

How will the book help new product developers in their day-to-day work?

“‘Hidden Persuaders of Cocoa and Chocolate’ provides an overview of the tastes, aromas and notes for describing our products. In addition, the book broadens the language used to describe chocolate by relating tasting experiences to the process of pairing flavours. This resource, designed for both academics and those working in research and development, equips the reader to describe sensory attributes for the purposes of new product development and quality improvement.”

How do you determine which flavours work well together for the purpose of flavour pairing?

“We have established 10 simple rules of chocolate pairing through literature review and scientific research. Further on, we validated the usefulness of these rules by experiments with chocolate and various food ingredients. The suggested pairs of chocolate and certain flavours are described in different parts of the book and they are synchronized with information published in our on-line applications ‘Chocolizer TM’ and ‘Itinero™’. From our experiments, we know that bitter and sweet inhibit each other. Salty ingredient added to cocoa makes it less bitter, and sour or intensely fruity chocolate should not accompany a highly effervescent drink. Pairing flavours in a truly scientific way, is a fascinating subject. Much more is to discover and reveal to our customers and end consumers in the coming year.”

You specialize in cocoa. What inspires you in this food ingredient?

“From literature and experience, we know that cocoa flavour is a true inspiration to both science and art. Step by step, science reveals the health benefits of cocoa and this especially inspires my daily work. From the artistic part of our chocolate designers, I continuously learn how to enjoy the sensory aspects; focusing not only on a rigorous, scientific methodology but also on the underlying pleasure and passion for that unique flavour.”

What would you like the industry and consumers to understand about chocolate and cocoa?

“I am convinced that when people become part of a trained sensory panel, they start to think differently about sensory aspects. They become able to speak a common sensory language but in a professional way – either for quality improvement or new product development. And by using this book, people will develop a higher awareness of tastes and flavours, as well as upscale their overall sensory skills regarding cocoa and chocolate evaluation.”

Can we expect a lot of innovations coming from the chocolate industry?

“Yes, we are already working on answers to challenges facing various populations all over the world; including less of X / more of Y - solutions. Please, keep your appetite ready, to be satisfied with our new chocolate innovations!”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“Taste has become more important than ever before. People want products to be really tasty, and they want more and more multi-sensorial experiences, including the triggering of all five sensory modalities: vision, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.”

“Applied scientific studies are more relevant than ever before, especially in the cocoa and chocolate industry. In our business, we have certainly many highly educated people with PhD diplomas. Since we want more applied science, now we face a great challenge namely how to contribute to the development of innovative products. Hopefully, we will go beyond healthy, convenient, easy, sustainable, traceable or clean-label products.”