Sucker or chewer: new study on variance in choc eating habits could impact NPD

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Mastication Digestion

Results from recent research aiming to better understand variation in chocolate consumption behaviour suggest that formulation experts at leading brand owners might consider developing different products targeted at suckers and fast chewers.

This is the first study characterising variation in chocolate eating behaviour, according to the authors, who are sensory scientists based at Mars UK and the University of Nottingham.

Writing in the journal Physiology & Behavior​, they note chocolate eating behaviour appears to vary considerably across consumers ranging from those who chew and swallow very quickly, to those who simply suck and allow the chocolate to melt.

Testing protocols

The researchers urge that standardisation of eating protocols for chocolate should be considered by leading brand owners as a result of their findings.

Lead researcher on the study and associate professor in sensory science at the University of Nottingham, Joanna Hort, told that the findings show how consumers eat chocolate has “a big impact on how they perceive its flavour and texture.”

And she said “understanding this will enable chocolate manufacturers to carry out testing using eating protocols representative of the consumer.”

The sensory exports report three different types of eating habits “fast chewers”, “thorough chewers” or “suckers” and they also found that individuals retain their general pattern of eating behaviour across different samples.

The authors point to previous research in the area from Brown and Braxton, who showed that consumer preferences for biscuits may be related to the way they break down in the mouth whilst chewing.

The scientists also note studies on chewy confectionery products that indicate different chewing and swallowing patterns may influence sensory perception.

The study

The eating behaviour of individuals, consuming two chocolate samples (A and B), of comparable melt viscosity but with different textural attributes, was investigated.

The researchers said their goal was to investigate variation in the individual eating behaviour of chocolate and to determine if changes in eating behaviour relate to observed textural differences between two chocolate samples, using the techniques of surface electromyography (sEMG) and electroglottography (EGG) to do so.

EMG, they explained, was used to evaluate masticator muscle activity and EGG was used to record swallowing events.

The findings show that chocolate eating behaviour appears to vary considerably across consumers.

Key differences across subjects were: time and number of chews, time of last swallow and total number of swallows, they added. Subjects were grouped into three clusters of eating behaviour characterised as, “fast chewers”, “thorough chewers” and “suckers”.

The main differences between clusters were the time chocolate was kept in mouth, chew rate and muscle work.

Chocolate A was significantly preferred to Chocolate B, found the team. They said that the paired comparison tests indicated that the subjects were able to detect significant differences between the two chocolates for hardness at the first bite and mouth-coating.

Chocolate A was considered more mouth-coating and be less hard at first bite.
“Observed differences in mouth-coating affected the in-mouth residence time: chocolate A, perceived as more mouth-coating, showed an increased total chewing time and time of last swallow,”​ the sensory scientists noted.

Health implications

Hort said the sensory experts continue to evaluate how variation in eating behaviour impacts on perception and “are currently looking at variation in the pressures applied in mouth to semi-solid foods which could have implications for many products and sub-populations such as the elderly.”

Slow eating, note the researchers, has also been shown to decrease food intake and result in increased satiety, with variation in bite size and oral processing time also influencing on food intake:

“If variation in chocolate eating behaviour exists,” they report, “then this could also impact on chocolate intake levels which in turn may have health implications.”

Title: Characterisation of chocolate eating behaviour
Published online ahead of print: doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.06.001
Authors AM Carvalho-da-Dilvaa, I. Van Dammeb, B. Wolfa, J. Hort

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