Effect of micro-aeration on the mechanical behaviour of chocolates and implications for oral processing
Aeration in foods has been widely utilised in the food industry to develop novel foods with enhanced sensorial characteristics. Specifically, aeration at the micron-sized scale has a significant impact on the microstructure where micro-bubbles interact with the other microstructural features in chocolates. This study aims to determine the effect of micro-aeration on the mechanical properties of chocolate products, which are directly correlated with textural attributes such as hardness and crumbliness. Uniaxial compression tests were performed to determine the mechanical properties such as Poisson's ratio, Young's modulus and macroscopic yield strength together with fracture tests to estimate the fracture toughness. In vivo mastication tests were also conducted to investigate the link between the fracture properties and fragmentation during the first two chewing cycles. The uniaxial stress–strain data were used to calibrate a viscoplastic constitutive law. The results showed that micro-aeration significantly affects mechanical properties such as Young's modulus, yield and fracture stresses, as well as fracture toughness. In addition, it enhances the brittle nature of the chocolate, as evidenced by lower fracture stress but also lower fracture toughness leading to higher fragmentation, in agreement with observations in the in vivo mastication tests. As evidenced by the XRT images and the stress–strain measurements micro-aeration hinders the re-arrangement of the microscopic features inside the chocolate during the material's deformation. The work provides a new insight of the role of bubbles on the bulk behaviour of complex multiphase materials, such as chocolates, and defines the mechanical properties which are important input parameters for the development of oral processing simulations.