Imagine the perfect chip: Crisp, perfectly salty, and just a touch greasy. It might be the classic potato chip, or maybe bacon mac n’ cheese better fits your vibe (yes, they exist).

Imagine the perfect chocolate bar: Deliciously smooth, sinfully sweet, melting in your mouth and offering a surprising cooling sensation on the tongue.

Now imagine yourself reaching for these chips or that chocolate. You slowly, innocently, gingerly peel back the chocolate wrapper, salivating as you gaze longingly at the indulgent treat.

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You take a nibble, followed by a downright CHOMP…faster and faster, look at you go. You’re a machine. You fleetingly think people might be watching, but… Nah, they’re just jealous.

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I know, I know… You wanted just “a few” — a few chips, a few cookies, a few bites of chocolate… But wait. You suddenly touch the bottom of an empty bag and come up empty-handed. Horrified, You peer inside and sure enough, only crumbs and grease remain.

How did that happen? You didn’t mean to, really. You just couldn’t stop. And what’s more? You probably weren’t even hungry to begin with.

Now before you go berate yourself for this abominable act of gluttony, let’s take a moment. Breathe, collect yourself, child. Goooood. Let’s take some direction from a New York Times Magazine article by Michael Moss, author of the bestseller Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us, and learn the lingo:

  • A scientifically calculated perfect sugar amount is called a ‘bliss point’, and this bliss point activates same neurological pathways as narcotics.
  • Would a chip really be a chip if it didn’t crunch with each bite? Exactly. No way. But take this food for thought: Humans associate crunch with freshness.
  • Many snacks dissolve on contact with the tongue (think Cheetos Puffs), which is something termed ‘vanishing caloric density.’ Your brain doesn’t register that you’ve eaten nearly as much if the product doesn’t last long in your mouth.
  • Salt offers something scientists call a ‘flavor burst.’ Take kosher salt for an example: The hollow crystals serve to increase saliva surface area contact. The crystals dissolve three times as fast as regular salt. Read: Intense sensory flavor burst.
  • Fat offers a creamy, irresistible texture to food. This is creaminess is termed ‘mouth-feel’ and it’s oh-so-alluring.
  • If you’ve ever wondered why you can taste your snack long after you’ve devoured the last bite (think Doritos breath), here’s your answer: long aftertaste = long hang-time flavor.

Taken together, we have the perfect elixir for an addictive snack: a strategic and genius combination of texture, salt, sugar, and fat.

These flavors are all designed to play to your weaknesses. What’s more? All of this is by design and suddenly the phrase ‘can’t stop, won’t stop,’ isn’t so funny anymore.


Photo by Amanda Gray

Now now, don’t panic, and don’t go reaching for that ice cream to drown your woes and sorrows.

See, here’s the thing: You’re a smart cookie. You now know the dark, manipulative secrets wrapped up in that sexy foil packaging. It may call your name and boast a mean bliss point and impressive mouth-feel, but you’re a strong, independent snacker who don’t need no flavor burst. Damn straight.