Low Fat Chocolate Has Potential To Electrify Production

An electrical field running in the same direction as the flow of chocolate means it needs less fat. Mny-Jhee/Shutterstock

The application of an electric field helps chocolate flow more easily, removing the need for the world's favorite treat to be so rich in fat. The effect is not large enough to turn candy bars into health food, even if you ignore the sugar, but could still lead to serious calorie reductions. Has Willy Wonka finally grown up?

Fat has its own taste and improves our appreciation of other flavors. However, the concentrations seen in a typical chocolate bar are set not by taste considerations but the challenges of production. Efforts to make reduced-fat chocolate have foundered on the fact that these products are more viscous, or resistant to flowing, and therefore don't move easily through mass production pipelines.

Past failures to produce low-fat chocolate are “deeply related to the basic science of soft matter,” Professor Rongjia Tao of Temple University, Pennsylvania reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Most people think of chocolate as a solid because this is how they buy and eat it. To the chocolate maker, however, chocolate is a liquid for the whole process of production and only solidified just before it is ready to be packed and sent to the warehouse or store.”

But help is on its way. Tao applied a 1,600 Volts/centimeter (4,000 Volts/inch) electric field along the direction of flow of chocolate samples from major manufacturers heated to 40º C (104º F), which reduced the liquid chocolate's viscosity and increased its density, reducing the need for as much fat.

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