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Excerpt from The Guardian Jan 30, 2017:

An international team of scientists claims finally to have cracked one of the most common consumer conundrums: why don’t tomatoes taste like they used to? Professor Antonio Granell, a research professor at the Spanish National Research Council who co-authored the report, said the aim of the project had been simple.

“This study came out of the general complaint that modern tomato varieties – the kind that you find in supermarkets – have lost that typical tomato taste,” he said. “We decided to look at the basis for this loss of flavour in modern commercial varieties; you can still find that flavour in traditional varieties that are grown on a small scale locally.”

Over various years and sessions, researchers then isolated the 13 volatile compounds responsible for flavour and found that they were present at good levels in tomatoes judged favourably by the panel.

The compounds’ absence from modern varieties suggests flavour was inadvertently sacrificed as the industry sought to maximise yields and resistance to pests and disease. The team also found the 100 genes necessary to ensuring the high levels of the taste compounds that occur in traditional tomato varieties.

“We were trying to see what had happened in programs to ‘improve’ tomatoes,” said Granell. “After the second world war, seed companies started to worry about producing more to feed people. The principal aim was to increase production, and it’s very difficult to control flavour character in an ‘improvement’ program.

“The flavour got lost because people didn’t know what the molecular and genetic bases were, so they couldn’t apply them. It was because they focused on quantity, productivity and resistance. What we’ve discovered is that they basically lost these volatile compounds that we’ve identified in this study.”

How does this apply to chocolate? The same exact thing is happening to cacao varieties – the emphasis has been on productivity and disease resistance not flavor.  At the HCP, we want to make sure that traditional types of cacao trees (whose beans are the ingredient from which chocolate is made) do not disappear to be replaced with high producing but no flavor hybrids.

JOIN US in the battle for cacao bio diversity and flavor before its too late and all chocolate tastes like cardboard.