What’s in your biscuit?

Maria is the second-most-awesome biscuit in the world. It’s simple and tasty. I do believe that my food should taste of … well food (not sugar, salt, bbq sauce or stuff like that).

Food is all about experiencing the food and its ingredients. We should be able to appreciate the exquisitely unique taste that results from the interaction between the single ingredients.

How “simple” is a simple biscuit?

Finding simple and tasty food is not easy, especially in a land (North America) wrecked by corporations fighting each other to feed the population with the latest super-healthy-choco-granola-bbq-flavored snacks 🙁

On the contrary, Maria (or Marie biscuit) is a simple and sincere biscuit. It’s perfect for a light, Italian-style, breakfast.

But maybe the Maria I have in mind is not the same Maria that I routinely buy from the store …

If we visualize the ingredients used in the home-made maria Vs the ingredients used in the commercial biscuit, something surprising emerges (Oh gosh! I’m so naive …): the original ingredients represent just a fraction (~53% – see the note below) of the total ingredients used for the commercial product.

Original ingredients are depicted with color. Additional ingredients used in the commercial product are represented in gray

What I like about this visualization

  • It uses a nice metaphor: the roundness of the biscuit plays nice with the roundness of the pie chart … and then … biscuit/pie chart … is just funny and semantically sound 🙂

What I don’t like about this visualization

  • The whole pie chart (100%) has been partitioned into equal slices that do not represent the relative proportions between ingredients. Even if I don’t know the actual proportions of the ingredients used in the commercial product, I could use the relative position of the ingredient (i.e. items that come first in the list are usually more abundant than the following ingredients) to have a better (more realistic) representation of the ingredient composition
  • The colors may be a bit off: I should use the accent colors to highlight the extra ingredients and use a color with a pale/neutral tone to represent the original (i.e. shared) ingredients.

Do we really need this surplus of ingredients?

Companies in the food industry are struggling to produce food that tastes good, looks genuine and that can survive for a long time on the supermarket’s shelves.

But do we really need to swallow this surplus of ingredients? Sodium metabisulfiteanyone? Actually it’s not as nasty as it sounds, but still I don’t need any of it and certainly not in my biscuit!

How I made this visualization

Nothing fancy: it’s a R pie plot. I have used Sketch to paste the biscuit on top of the pie chart – the biscuit picture is by Diadoco, Bucephala – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
I find this topic (and visualization) really compelling. Expect more #foodinvestigations on this blog 🙂


Leonardo Restivo

Behavioral Neuroscientist, M.Sc., Ph.D. - Passionate about Behavior, Data Visualization & Psychology. Read my CV+résumé. Follow me on twitter @scipleneuro