Emotions play a significant role in food and are simultaneously linked to initial food preferences. That is according to Renata Januszewska, Global R&D Sensory Manager at Barry Callebaut, who notes that “when our rational thinking comes into play, it can trigger instinctive, emotional, core feelings about something.” Emotions may be natural integrators of the five sensory modalities: vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste, she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.  

Chocolate certainly triggers many positive emotions such as joy, happiness, liking, love, respect or hope. However, Barry Callebaut research shows that some negative emotions may be linked to chocolate with very high cereal or over-roasted flavors. “Flavors inside chocolate can trigger various emotions,” notes Januszewska, highlighting that chocolate with cherry flavor  “includes sweet taste, vegetal, almond, nutty, citrus and orange notes, with lingering, oily aftertaste” and it can evoke emotions including happy-cheerful and loving-beautiful.” 

Moreover, chocolate with a violet scent is appealing to many with floral, rose-like, raspberry-like, honey nuances and can activate mysterious, erotic and flirty feelings,” Januszewska notes. “Caramel is a wonderful flavor with notes of sweet, grilled pineapple and strawberries – it brings emotions like happiness, cheerfulness, relaxation, loving and toffee has an intense sweet taste, buttery flavor, with initial bitter tart note, and brings emotions like sensuality and fun, but also a kind of ‘passiveness,’” she states. 

Sensory lexicons

A professional sensory lexicon is a branch of knowledge, to which people can refer and check if their understanding of certain flavor is aligned with the understanding of field experts. In February 2018, Barry Callebaut published the cocoa and chocolate sensory lexicon, with the objective of harmonizing sensory language internally. “The lexicon lists all kinds of sensory impressions, including those that are obvious to consumers and those that can be detected only by experts,” continues Januszewska. In this sense, the lexicon can help to align understanding of flavors not only for experts, but also for a broader audience of chocolate enthusiasts, she flags. 

In February 2018, Barry Callebaut published the cocoa and chocolate sensory lexicon, with the objective of harmonizing sensory language internally. Pictured; the Ruby Sensory Spider.

“No doubt cultural filters will always factor into such an alignment. When you live in Scandinavia and are used to eating liquorice, you will recognize this attribute in Grenada’s cocoa immediately. However, when you live in Asia and rarely have access to liquorice, you will most probably have a problem in identifying it.”

The aim of a lexicon is to create a fixed, definable meaning for words instead of using more fluid and changeable terms. “Of course, the depth to which someone understands a descriptor depends on his or her level of expertise,” says Januszewska. “As an example, consider that attribute of ‘woody.’ ‘Woody’ can be a generic word, a kind of umbrella, for the following descriptors that mean completely different things: light woody, dark woody or smoked woody, or even resinous. Each of these ‘woody’ impressions will have different volatile aroma compounds responsible for its major sensory characteristic,” she comments. The codification of such sensory attributes brings more insight and reduces disagreements. 

Barry Callebaut wants to ensure that all its trained panels in Quality Assurance, R&D, as well as its chefs, are highly aligned and have a right set of references to visualize positive or negative flavors. “The aim is to align on the sensory language and also to experiment with fully natural flavors. For off-flavors, we are working with FlavorActiV and we have developed a set of references, available commercially on-line, related to product and process changes or to packaging contamination,” Januszewska explains. 

Commenting on whether new innovations in the industry such as Ruby chocolate and WholeFruitChocolate have changed the industry vocabulary needed, Januszewska says that innovative products created using new ingredients and new processes may present very unique sensory properties. “They may have special flavors and mouth feel impressions. In case of our recent innovations, like Ruby or WholeFruitChocolate, the panels evaluated the products using traditional and innovative sensory methods. These included temporal dominance of sensations and measuring the release of flavors over time.”

“Ruby Chocolate offers an intense sensorial delight, a totally new taste experience: neither bitter, milky nor sweet, but a tension of fresh berry fruitiness and luscious smoothness,” she details. “Meanwhile, WholeFruitChocolate Dark version called ‘Bold’ is a punchy symphony of fresh fruitiness and deep chocolaty notes.” 

By selecting the right terminology for sensory and hidden persuaders of chocolate,Barry Callebaut can narrow down the sensory attributes into eight flavor levels. For these flavors levels, Januszewska says the company further developed the sensory definition, key taste compound, taste description, key aroma compounds, flavor description, notes description, trigeminal effect, smell description, chocolate tasting and finally, indicated associated emotions. 

“The writing process of such lexicon demands efficient collaboration between different experts, resistance to time pressure and solving unexpected challenges, such as creation of special diagrams or pictures,” she concludes.