Chocolate Shape and Perception

Chocolate Shape and Perception

Published by Chocolatier Jason Vishnefske on 15th Jan 2018

Chocolate shape has an influence on perception of high quality chocolate

When was the last time you walked into a chocolate store and picked out the most perfect chocolate? What was it that attracted you so much and led you to the decision of purchasing it? What factors influenced you while deciding which one you should pick to eat? Was it the smell? Was it the color? Was it the design or the shape?

Chocolate is not all about taste, there are contextual and environmental factors impacting one’s judgment of good chocolate. The shape (a contextual factor) impacts the overall sale and perception of chocolate.

Chocolate Shape Research

Taste plays the highest significance in chocolate perception. There are many other factorsat play that influence one’s perception and it simply does not depend on a single factor. Taste, in combination, with other influencing aspects result in assisting a consumer’s judgement of what kind of chocolate is best.

When we talk about chocolate, approximately 80% of the chocolates belonging to a specific class would taste the same. So, basically, in markets where competition is high and the product is in abundance! Other factors such as how it smells (olfactory cues) how it looks (visual cues) and how it feels (somatosensory cues) influences the taster’s perception.

Chocolate Tabs

At Santa Barbara Chocolate we take pride in announcing that our experts have developed one of the most advance chocolate shapes for tasting chocolate. Our newest shape, the chocolate tab, is a scientific break through in advanced chocolate design for tasting.


Milk Chocolate Couverture in Tabs  Shape

Introduction to Research

Our research is focused toward spotlighting how the innovative tab shape helps in increasing the intensity of cocoa flavor, cocoa smell and the general quality perception of the chocolate. The conductive analysis shows that with the successful adjustments of different cue factors, chocolate becomes capable of heavily influencing the perception of a taster effectively.

The Perception of Smell & Taste

Smell plays a significant role in our lives. A life without the sense of smell can literally cloud our judgments on taste. It proves that olfactory senses are directly linked with the taste factor and hence, the perception of taste can be altered by tweaking the perception of smell.

Such is the case with high quality chocolate. It was discovered that the perception of taste can be altered by pairing the chocolate with different sweet odors in order to enhance the sweetness ratings of the chocolate, all thanks to the science of olfactory cues. Numerous studies were conducted where chocolate was mixed with up to 20 different odors, and as a result it was proved that sweet smelling chocolates (milky smell) were purchased more as compared to chocolates with citric, bitter or other unusual smells.

An interesting research study was carried out by Djordjevic, Zatorre, and Jones-Gotman who proved that chocolates enhanced with a strawberry smell held a perception of high sweetness rating and a perceived higher quality perception as compared to chocolates enhanced with other types of fruit smells.

The Perception of Shape & Taste

Research studies further show that the shape has a greater influence on the taste of a chocolate. Shapes are closely linked with textures and therefore both relate to each other through synaesthesia.

What is Synaesthesia?

It is the process where one sensory modality is influenced by other sensory modality under stimulation. A research conducted by American neurologist Richard Cytowic proves that shapes play a significant role in making judgements. To complete his research, he asked an individual to try food of a similar recipe served in different shapes where the tester was unaware of the fact that different food shapes are coming from the same recipe. The tester concluded that different food shapes had different effects on one’s taste buds and perception.

A similar example can be taken by observing the study of wine. Wine, when consumed, is perceived to have either round or pointed flavors based on the level of sweetness or level of bitterness. Since, synaesthetes is linked with the psychology of mind, one perceives the wine itself as being actually sharp or soft on one’s tongue. This psychological influence is why we partly opted for this unique chocolate Tab shape. The chocolate shape (Tab) has a very positive correlation with high quality chocolate perception.

The Perception of Visuals & Taste

Modification in the color of the chocolate highly influences the taste of the chocolate. This has been proved by researchers Garber, Hyatt, and Starr when they experimented on a group using orange flavored drinks. People were more likely to understand the flavor of the drink based on the color orange. But, when the researchers shifted the color to purple or blue, it became rather difficult for individuals to identify which flavor they were drinking.

Furthermore, the research also proved that changing external factors such as the brand name and brand colors on the product also had a confusing impact on the minds of many. Some rarely identified while others were completely clueless which flavored drink they were having. This is why our chocolate tabs are the right color one would expect of high quality chocolate. Chocolate color is influenced by cocoa composition, milk type and conch time.

Research Methodology

To analyze the outcome of shape change over taste in chocolates, a study conducted quantitative research on the matter. More than 100 participants belonging to different age groups were gathered in a big hall. Each participant was pre-checked whether they are medically fit or not. Once confirmed fit, each participant was told that they will be asked to eat chocolates. It was confirmed that they are not allergic to chocolate in any way.It was also checked that the participant’s sense of smell, hearing, and taste was fully intact.

Two classifications of chocolates based on different shapes were created. One was in the normal bar shape while the other was in the tab shape. One formula contained milk chocolate content, while the other was white chocolate content. Each recipe had a different shape; one round and the other in tab shape.

Once the research was complete, the following outcome came to the forefront. Research approved that tab shaped chocolates were considered balanced sweetness, less overtly bitter and creamier as compared to the chocolate bar shape. Also, it was assessed that the bar shaped chocolates had a lower general preference rating as compared to the tab-shaped chocolates due to melt time. In case of tab shapes versus bar shapes, users had the liberty to savor each chocolate shape at their leisure and the tasters generally grabbed the tab more often claiming higher satisfaction.

One more thing was analyzed during the research. The white chocolates were more preferred among individuals seeking a full more comfort food style dessert. Most users reached the result that white colored chocolates specifically (not necessarily white chocolate alone) tend to be more dessert like than other chocolate types irrespective of the shape or quality. There are two reasons as per why this likely happened:

  • The first is the rarity of white chocolate in the market which made it rather difficult for individuals to make a judgement.
  • The second is the color white adds the creamy effect to chocolate perception and altogether makes it a preferred choice among customers seeking comfort in a dessert.


Hence, the quantitative research led us to the possible explanation that the tab-shaped chocolates are considered better than traditional chocolate bar shaped chocolates, and that’s because they allow users to savor the chocolate more personally in a self reflective way. We also found that white chocolates are preferred more in comparison to dark chocolate when the taster is seeking a fuller comforting and possibly emotional tasting experience.

What Researchers Think About the Shape of a Chocolate Bar?

One may find some attributes that can influence the taste of chocolate. The type of cocoa bean used to create the chocolate, the number of ingredients put into the manufacturing, and the level of sweetness the chocolate has to offer. For many years people have wondered whether the shape of chocolate had any direct influence and amazingly scientists at Bristol University finally cracked the myth for all chocoholics out there.

The compelling factor for the scientist to perform this research was the critique on the launch of Cadbury's new dairy product. It had the same exact ingredients and the same chocolate contents, but users claimed that Cadbury had messed up the whole taste! They only changed the shape of their product. To unravel the myth of shape, Scientists and Bristols performed research and finally reached a conclusion, yes, the shape does affect the taste factor within chocolates.

Professor Barry C Smith is the director and founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at BBC. According to him:

"The speed with which the chocolate is broken down from hard to molten determines the time release of flavors,"

When he learned about the new shape launched by Cadbury, his response to the situation was,

"The new shape could mean the chocolate is melting quicker as it is being heated in the mouth quicker. That would change the flavor."

Also,researchers at Nestle held the same belief, but in their point of view, the round shape of chocolate provides the maximum essence of taste. They believe that the chocolate offering the maximum surface tension has the power to influence perception above any other chocolate shape.

A similar belief was observed by Professor Peter Barham who claims:

"If a shape has a large surface area you will get a more rapid release of molecules from the food, the perception of flavor is influenced by a lot of things and shape is one of them."

Alasdair Garnsworthy, on the other hand, a highly recognized chocolatier who has gained immense fame within the sphere of Chocolate Society, says different shapes influence flavors differently. He claims that:

"If I'm using a powerful flavor like rosemary I don't want the flavor to come through too strongly so I use a shape that will melt in the mouth slowly. If I am using an ingredient that I want to come through with a real punch, like caramel, then I use a shape that will melt in the mouth quicker."

In light of the following claims, Cadbury changing the shape of the chocolate bar probably had a big affect on their customer’s perception. Cadbury spokesman Tony Bilsborough talked about the new Cadbury chocolate bar shape which is more curvy with:

"This undoubtedly helps to improve the melt-in-the-mouth experience, and the feedback from consumers has been extremely positive."


White Chocolate Couverture in Tabs Shape

Lastly, The Myth of White Chocolates Revealed!

We may find the Internet full of calls regarding why dark chocolate is way better than white chocolate but that’s not entirely true. To be honest, research shows that neither white chocolate nor dark is consumed as much as milk chocolate by individuals each day.

White Chocolates is a rarity and are not manufactured as frequently as Dark chocolates, but in comparison to milk chocolates both stand down within the competition. Our research did show that people preferred white chocolates when they were served in tab shapes, but it still does not conclude that white chocolates in general are the preferred choice among customers around the world. Santa Barbara Chocolate has seen sales growth annually world wide specifically in milk chocolate.

In some parts of the world specific forms of chocolate are largely accepted as compared to other parts of the world. Some like their chocolates with nuts, while others prefer it with caramel, some would like it creamy, while others may prefer it hard and brittle.

So, there is no such strong validation as per why white chocolates are preferred more as compared to dark ones and then again to milk chocolate.

Technology Allows You to Shape Your Own Chocolate

Quality plays a sound role but what if you are manufacturing one of the best recipes already? Then other factors chime in and today, we have revealed how shape influences the psychological perspective of our consumer market.

But that’s not where the story ends… Are you wondering how you can make the tabular shaped chocolates for yourself? Even better, are you wondering how you can make any shape of chocolate at all?

Thanks to science introducing the 3D printing technologies which creates 3 dimensional objects in successive layers, there will be new innovative chocolates coming. Although the technology is widely accepted and used for manufacturing industrial materials, research leader Dr Liang Hao of the University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences has a chocolate perspective toward 3D printing:

“What makes this technology special is that users will be able to design and make their own products. In the long term it could be developed to help consumers custom-design many products from different materials but we’ve started with chocolate as it is readily available, low cost and non-hazardous. There is also no wastage as any unused or spoiled material can be eaten, of course! From reproducing the shape of a child’s favorite toy to a friend’s face, the possibilities are endless and only limited by our creativity.”

With such creative research, chocolate manufacturers will be able to invest in technology which allows them to shape chocolates in new ways.

Concluding Thoughts

Shapes influence the taste and this is why shape matters so much with chocolate design. It is true that taste influences above all, and with so many reliable chocolate brands on the market, it becomes rather difficult for individuals to make a call as to which one is a high quality chocolate. As a result, the shape and tasting experiencing and resulting perception comes into play significantly. The shape of the chocolate is how the consumer remembers the brand and experience.

Chef Simon Rimmer concluded that chocolate melting in the mouth properly will result in a hit to the taste buds faster. As a result this chocolate melting will offer true originality in the essence of the taste, making it a better experience and long lasting cocoa impression.