The Bliss Point in Craft Chocolate

By Spencer Hyman  ·  5th July 2020  ·  The Science of Chocolate

How chocolate “blisses” us out

This week is about bliss (or more accurately the “Bliss Point”).  And about Craft Chocolate.  And we’ll be discussing this on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch this Sunday morning.

Towards the end of our Weekly Virtual Craft Chocolate Tastings we explain the Bliss Point as we finish with two great milk chocolate bars. Even though many people rate the earlier dark chocolate bars as their favourite bars, it is the milk bars that people just cannot resist. 

And this is a great demonstration of how humans can be “gamed” by what food scientists call the “Bliss Point”. 

Dark versus Milk

Dark Craft Chocolate bars contain a fantastic variety of flavours – over four hundred according to recent scientific research, up there with Fine Wines.  Consequently dark Craft Chocolate is an amazing way to explore flavour and refine our palates.  It’s very nutritious.  It invites savouring.  One small cup of drinking chocolate or a few squares of a bar both stimulate and satiate.  Sharing a couple of dark chocolates squares is the perfect end to a meal, and you normally have some left over for the next meal too.

Milk Craft Chocolate is very different.  It also has tonnes of flavour, and it is huge fun to compare different milk craft chocolates at any time.  But milk Craft Chocolates are far more “moreish”.  So it’s far, far harder to resist eating more.  That’s also why in our Virtual Tastings we leave the milk chocolates to the end of our tastings, once we’ve savoured everything else. 

Scientists have a name for this phenomenon.  They named it the “Bliss Point” (really).

The Bliss Point

The Bliss Point started with some work by scientist Harold Moskowitz’ in the 1950’s on how to persuade American soldiers to finish their MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) – for more details, please see the blog.   In his research he discovered that humans both have a natural sense of satiety (i.e., they know when they’ve eaten enough) and that humans also become bored with the same tastes, flavours and textures.

Moskowitz also discovered that if you combine sugar, salt and fat with interesting flavourings and textures, we humans hit a “bliss point” and just don’t know how to stop.  And the result was everything from Cherry Doctor Pepper (an early success) to the likes of Doritos and Pringles where “once you pop you can’t stop”.

We are ‘programmed’ from birth to seek out, and enjoy, products that contain sugar, salt or fat. Eating (or drinking) any of them gives us a dopamine hit that encourages us to seek out more until we are satiated and then we stop.  However when you combine sugar, salt and fat altogether, they act synergistically to make us want to eat more and they override our ability to feel satiated and stop eating.   For most of history this wasn’t a problem, as in nature there are no products that simultaneously contain fat, sugar and salt.  But  food scientists, starting with Moskowitz,  experimented with, and optimised, different doses of sugar, salt and fat across many products and figured out how to override the brain’s natural ‘stop’ signals.  

It’s the same with many milk chocolates. When you take a bar like Standout’s Dark Milk (see below) you can savour it, but you may still want a second (and third etc.) bite.  It’s the same ‘science’ and experimentation that explains why Menakao’s 44% Milk and Original Bean’s Esmerelda’s milk have a pinch of salt.

Indeed there is an argument that milk chocolate, created in the 1880s and 1890s, was the world’s first “bliss point” food .  It was Daniel Peter’s perseverance, Henri Nestle’s work on producing milk powder and Rodolphe Lindt’s conche that created the first smooth, creamy milk chocolates – and the rest is history. (Note:  the American experience of milk chocolate is a little different – and if you want to understand the “tangy” flavour they love (we are being polite), dial into one of our regular Zoom Tastings to discover more.

Please note that this is by no means a criticism of milk, and dark milk, Craft Chocolate bars (indeed we’re recommending some below).  But hopefully it offers some insight as to why even many dark chocolate Craft Chocolate Fans find it hard to resist a few squares of Menakao Milk, Original Beans Esmerelda’s Milk, Doormouse and Duffy’s milks etc.

Sunday 5th July on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch

We’re going to be trying this out live on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch this Sunday morning – so if you read this email before approx 10.30am (when Spencer will be on air), please do tune in and see Simon Rimmer, Tim Lovejoy and their guests trying a few great Craft Chocolates.  Naturally we will start with a dark chocolate and then move to a dark milk … and now you can buy the collection below!