According to the Syndicat du chocolat, the French consume an average of 13.2 kilos per year and per household. There is no doubt that it is therefore a very popular delicacy, which also places our country in sixth place among the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world. This news should therefore make you happy: recently, Dutch scientists have discovered what could make our consumption experience even more pleasant. Smithsonian Magazine looked at this new innovation to conceptualize the perfect chocolate.
It was at the University of Amsterdam that the project was born to use physics and geometry to answer the following question: what makes chocolate so enjoyable and in what form to consume it to live the better taste experience? The research carried out led to the conclusion that the perfect shape of chocolate is that of a spiral, obtained using a 3D printer. “Fortunately, there was no one in the whole team who didn’t like chocolate”jokes Corentin Coulais, the physicist who led the project.
Usually, this researcher works with (non-food) metamaterials, i.e. materials that have properties not found in nature. It was a partnership with the food giant Unilever that led him and his team on the cocoa roads. The research is therefore in the field of “edible metamaterials”, which aims to create foods that are more nutritious or even better and easier to eat.
After tempering chocolate containing 72% cocoa, the scientists printed several different shapes, some resembling the letter “S” while others resembled real labyrinths. Then they subjected these prototypes to mechanical tests to see how many pieces they would break into when bitten by the consumer, including whether they were bitten from the side or from the top.
Finally, the last stage of the research published in April made people happy since it consisted in testing these different forms with guinea pigs. Corentin Coulais explains: “The more intricate the shape and the more cracks the fang caused, the more consumers seemed to like it.”
It’s no wonder that testers preferred the crunchier shapes. Previous research had shown that we particularly enjoy the sensation of breaking food inside our mouths, especially for the sound it produces. Some scientists also believe that it could be because we associate crunchiness with freshness, as opposed to softness, which is synonymous with rotting. The texture would have potentially helped our distant ancestors find the most nutritious foods.
The field of “food metamaterials” is booming and promises many advances. It could make it possible, for example, to create food with a low carbon footprint, to make life easier for sick people who have difficulty chewing, or to create edible holograms and thus remove labels on food.