Energy bar test cuts to the chase with taste

Jul 22 2016

University of Newcastle (UON) food scientists are conducting a study that is sure to please those with an appetite for healthy snack products.

Participants get to taste-test a chocolate-coloured energy bar containing all-natural ingredients that was hand-made in the UON food labs. They can eat as much or as little as they want.

The purpose is to gather opinions on aspects such as taste, texture, chewiness and how “filling” the bar is, and find out which attributes are most important.

“Eating habits have changed over the past few years,” Masters student Matthias Weltert, a member of the HMRI Cardiovasular Program, said. “Snacks have become more popular and people eat more frequently out of home. This is why there is a need for nutritious and healthy snack products that also taste good.”

With energy bars often perceived as health and sports foods, Mr Weltert added that nutritional claims such as “low-fat” might encourage people to eat more and over-compensate.

“It’s unclear what consumers really understand about the various claims, how much advertising influences choices and what the consequences are,” he said. “Our energy bar recipe was developed at UON so we can be independent of the food industry and avoid a potential conflict of interest.”

After the energy bar tasting, participants will also be asked to estimate food volumes testing a new international food measurement aid for a separate study.

Where cup and tablespoon volumes vary between countries, the cube-shaped device would help to standardise quantities. It can also be divided into smaller portions.

“People often have difficulties in estimating food volumes,” Mr Weltert explained. “Visual aids like the cube can help them make better estimations and keep up with the dietary recommendations.”

The studies are open to anyone over 18 but the energy bar test excludes those with food allergies or intolerances. It is being conducted at the UON Callaghan campus, with a free coffee voucher provided. Phone 0435 922 012 or email matthias.weltert@newcastle.edu.au for more details.

* Matthias Weltert is a Masters student in Food Science with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. He is conducting his Master thesis with the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the Community.