In the Tongue of the Beholder: Using ELNs to Maintain Taste and Quality in Food Products
There is chocolate, and then there is chocolate: concoctions that take three days to make, with Pistachio marzipan or truffles infused with nougatine or exotic flavors, such as chipotle and cardamon. Among chocolate lovers, two bearded brothers have been making waves in the industry to the ire of some chocolate experts. As Megan Giller writes, “…utter the words Mast, Brooklyn, or even beards to anyone in the chocolate industry — makers, professional tasters, and specialty shop owners — and you’ll get a ranty earful about why he or she would never recommend it. How can the most popular craft chocolate in America be so disliked by chocolate experts?” Indeed, some top chocolate reviewers rate Mast chocolate bars in the bottom 5 percentile, according to Clay Gordon, a food judge and author of Discover Chocolate, though the brothers argue this is because they have never catered to the chocolate industry. What can’t be denied, however, is the popularity of their brand, which received a Critics’ Pick award from New York Magazine.
ELNs to Uncover Specialty Foods
Whether you want to take on an industry as the Mast brothers have or simply make a line of specialty chocolates, electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), can assist you in organizing the ingredients, techniques and recipes in order to establish a new specialty item, while maintaining consistency in each batch. Part of the novelty of specialty foods such as chocolates is the control sellers or artisans can exert over their product. Returning to the Mast brothers, instead of using mass-roasted beans that are often sold in bulk, the brothers personally selected the beans used to produce their chocolate bars, thus exerting a greater control over the final taste. Thus, those interested in producing artisanal food items should similarly start with high-quality base ingredients (e.g. cacao beans for chocolate) in order to produce a homemade and high-quality product. Following are additional ways ELNs can support specialty food sellers:
- Maintains batch consistency: As specialty chocolatiers understand, the substitution of ingredients can result in differences in taste between batches, to the chagrin of consumers. In order to maintain consistency, it is important that information about food ingredients are carefully recorded in ELNs. ELNs provide individuals with the opportunity to record numerous details, down to the location where the beans or milk were purchased. By then following the recipes each time, chocolatiers and other food specialists can ensure consistency.
- Encourages novelty: modify these recipes to produce either novel items or improve the items presently available. For example, with a recipe for a basic chocolate bar imputed into ELNs, chocolatiers can then think about adding some of the exotic ingredients mentioned above at specific concentrations to determine how it affects the food items. Additionally, certain additives to increase a chocolate’s melting temperature, for example, could be considered once the initial recipe has been perfected with ELNs. Thus, the presence of a company’s recipes on an easily accessible database, encourages innovation and novelty in their products.
- Healthy, then healthier: In the context of improving products, specialty food sellers can also use ELNs to support their search for healthier food items. Increasingly, consumers are concerned about the materials used to create their foods and are particularly interested in healthier alternatives to foods such as chocolate. Specialty food sellers such as chocolatiers can then use their recipes to determine if and when alternative ingredients can be substituted: when can you use two percent milk instead of cream? How does it taste? Additionally, ELNs help sellers record the characteristics of their chocolate such as melting temperature, brittleness, etc. In this way, as substitutions are made, ELNs help to assess how the product has changed, which assists specialty food companies in maintaining quality.
Though our focus throughout this discussion has been chocolate, all specialty food companies can benefit from the use of ELNs in their business operations to support the production of consistently high-quality, high-end food items. To determine how the BIOVIA Notebook can support the work of your company, please contact us today.