Kristiina Tuukkanen, who works as a researcher in Fazer’s innovation and research unit Fazer Lab, is a cereal technologist, M.Sc. (Food Science and Technology), by training. After her studies, she had the chance to work as a researcher and spend two rewarding years with her family in Nepal, until she joined Fazer’s research team in 2013.

At Fazer, Kristiina Tuukkanen is involved in various research projects and supports the product development and marketing teams in the design and development of new products. Current research themes of interest at Fazer Lab include the Science of Taste, which builds a scientific understanding of the world of flavours and the impact of aromas, and Fazer Brainhow, which studies and develops brain-friendly products and solutions that promote well-being.

“Our current interests include solutions that would allow us to reduce the amount of sodium chloride – or salt that’s harmful for health – in bread, without compromising on taste. Solutions of this kind can prove very significant for public health. It has been estimated that some 20 per cent of our daily intake of salt derives from bread, so by reducing the amount of salt in bread, we can reduce the intake of salt harmful to human health to a significant degree. This brings a practical, important aspect to our work when it one day ends up on people’s tables, which is a greatly motivating factor in our daily work,” says Kristiina.

As part of her work, Kristiina also instructs future food scientists in their master’s theses. She has time to participate in the work of approximately three master’s theses a year, and has already been involved in a variety of interesting projects. Fazer typically gives promising students suggestions on a topic for their master’s thesis from a field supporting one of Fazer’s topical research themes.

Salt and chocolate fibres

Fazer is a versatile food company providing, among other things, bakery and catering services in northern Europe. For many Finns, however, Fazer is still perhaps, above all, the home of a beloved chocolate. It is therefore no big surprise that, in addition to salt and sugar, Fazer is also active in the research of chocolate.

And there is indeed plenty to study in cocoa and dark chocolate: The latter contains a number of nutrients that promote well-being – magnesium, the flavanols in cocoa and potassium – but what many of us are not aware of is that dark chocolate is also rich in fibre and therefore apt to promote well-being. The microbiota in our guts need dietary fibre for nutrition and to stay healthy, and healthy intestines also communicate their well-being to the brain, having an impact on the whole body. A sufficient intake of fibres has also been found to prevent the risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. And here's some good news for chocolate lovers: dark chocolate contains as much dietary fibre than rye bread!

“We also carried out clinical research in cooperation with the gerontological nutrition society Gery, in which the subjects aged 65–75 ate 50 g of dark chocolate every day for a period of eight weeks.  The study found that this daily amount did not have a negative effect on weight or blood lipid levels. You can therefore eat dark chocolate with a good conscience in moderation,” says Kristiina.

Chocolate’s nutritious, beneficial and even mystic properties fascinate researchers as well. Fazer has been active on the front of chocolate research and taken part in a variety of studies related to chocolate. In the summer of 2018, Kristiina also instructed a master’s thesis on the subject brought about in collaboration between Fazer and the University of Helsinki.

“Preparing a master’s thesis for Fazer was rewarding work in many ways. The subject matter itself was delicious and I learned an enormous amount about the texture of cocoa and chocolate. In addition to that, though, I also learned how to lead a project, which is sure to prove useful in the future. The cooperation between Fazer and the university was smooth and the instruction I received from both was excellent,” says Maijuleena Salminen, who was responsible for the thesis. She now has an M.Sc. in food science.

“It’s always inspiring to work with young scientists just starting their career. The people working on their master’s theses don’t only provide us with good basic research, but fresh perspectives into issues,” says Kristiina.

Did you know?

Some 20 per cent of cocoa mass is fibre. The precise proportion of fibre depends on the growth conditions of the cocoa tree. The cocoa from western Africa is slightly higher in fibre than South American cocoa. The Fazer 70% Pure Dark chocolate contains 12 per cent of dietary fibre. And for those with a delicate stomach: the fibre in dark chocolate is also well suited for a FODMAP diet.