Dark Chocolate Lovers Can Take Bitter Better
August 31, 2012

Lovers Of Dark Chocolate Withstand Bitter Tastes Better Than Milk Chocolate Lovers

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

In the digital age, foodies abound. More and more individuals are taking photos of their food, blogging about dishes, and are proud of having a delicate palate. This palate may be extended to those who love eating dark chocolate. In particular, a group of Penn State food scientists found that people who like to consume dark chocolate can take on a variety of bitter flavors before rejection, more than fans of milk chocolate.

The researchers conducted a test of bitterness and discovered that people who preferred milk chocolate over dark chocolate quickly found that the chocolate sample they taste tested had a bitter substance mixed in to the candy. On the other hand, dark chocolate fans showed higher tolerance of the bitterness. The research was recently published in the online version of the Journal of Food Science.

"In some cases, you may be able to detect a change in the taste of your food, but that might not necessarily lead to disliking the product," noted Meriel Harwood, a graduate student in food science at Penn State, in a prepared statement. "However, almost immediately, people who preferred milk chocolate indicated they tasted something different and they didn't like it."

With the group of 85 participants, the scientist randomly divided the subjects into two groups based on their self-reported chocolate preferences. 43 participants were placed in the milk chocolate group, and 42 were placed in the dark chocolate group. They tried a few pairs of chocolate samples and, in each pair, one sample had sucrose octaccetate (SOA) that tasted bitter. In the test, the chocolates gradually increased in the quantity of SOA.

The group that preferred milk chocolate quickly disliked the samples with SOA, while the dark chocolate group continued to consume the candy. The milk chocolate group rejected 2.5 times more chocolate samples than the dark chocolate group. The researchers believe that the tests helped examine food acceptability and the detection threshold exam is a common taste test found in sensory science. It is usually used with consumer testing to find preferences to certain foods.

The researchers believe that individuals do not always reject a food because they find something different.

"There may be a disconnect between preferences and the ability to detect tastes, like bitterness," explained Harwood in the statement. "In other words, using detection threshold tests may not predict consumer acceptability."

As well, a past study that looked at cork taint in wine found that people who consumed wine tasted the cork taint but did not necessarily dislike the wine.

"We bring a bunch of cultural and emotional baggage with us when we eat," remarked Harwood in the statement. "What you grow up with, what you are used to, what you know, for example, can all influence your preferences."

The scientists believe that rejection threshold tests may be useful for the food industry in saving costs on certain products. The rejection threshold tests could be used to determine whether consumers disliked the taste of a particular food. Food manufacturers would then understand what kind of other ingredients should be used, like any sugar or salt replacements, before the final product is made. As such, product developers would be able to be more versatile when creating recipes for products.