Color Analysis of Non-Uniform Food Products: The Right Instrumentation for Textured Samples

Color analysis is an important part of safety and marketability in the food product industry. Numerous studies have shown that visual acceptance is the first thing consumers rely on when making choices in foods. Food color is so influential it can even change the way humans perceive taste and quality in foods. In fact, the brain has used color as an indication of freshness and food safety since the beginning of time, so it is no wonder that it is still considered an important feature of food products today.

Nearly every food product relies on color analysis during some point in the process it takes for raw materials to reach supermarket shelves. Whether developing a color analysis protocol for determining the ripeness of a crop, during in-line color and process monitoring, or for final product quality analysis, many major food industry leaders rely on spectrophotometric technology to maintain quality and safety standards in their products.

Color measurement of poured and placed foods

When measuring color with a spectrophotometer, it is important that the product sample’s texture, shape, and size are accounted for. This is especially true when developing a color analysis process for poured or placed foods. These types of foods are typically non-uniform in size and can be hard to measure using standard color analysis instrumentation.

potato chips color analysis
Non-uniform color samples are often poured and measured for true color analysis that best resembles human perspective.
Image Source: Flickr user Procsilas Moscas

For accurate color analysis of poured and placed food items, a non-contact measurement system is ideal. When a sample is measured from a focal point that sees the sample shades and hues as they are seen by the consumer perspective, the most reliable data can be obtained. This information can then be used to create a color-matching system and ensures consistency between sample batches. Consumers place their expectations on food products to maintain consistent color every time and associate these consistencies with quality products and brands.

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Utilizing non-contact color measurement

Many various products can utilize non-contact color measurement. From coffee or cocoa beans to potato chips, a non-contact color analysis system is ideal for obtaining color data that is true to the way the food is perceived by the consumer. Traditional spectrophotometric instrumentation relies on plastic or glass sample holders where color analysis is determined by measuring light absorption and reflectance values through the sample holder material. Not only does this alter the actual visual texture of the sample by forcing it between two surfaces, but the sample itself and the surface of the sample dish must be incorporated into the color measurement data. This problem is often referred to as surface retro-reflectance and can create variation errors in a color analysis system.

cookies color analysis
Food samples, such as cookies, require non-contact color measurement to maintain the true color and texture of the food product.
Image Source: Flickr user Vegan Feast Catering

When working with non-contact spectrophotometers, ambient lighting can often be an issue. Non-contact based instrumentation must be able to differentiate between the color measurement light source and ambient light sources. Advanced spectrophotometric instrumentation is designed to do exactly that and this process is referred to as ambient light rejection. This method only measures light that is illuminated from the instrumentation itself and ignores any outside light sources to provide the most accurate color analysis data. It’s essential that peripheral light is not interfering with measurements when working with non-contact instrumentation and measuring non-uniform and textured samples.

rolls color analysis
Food that must be poured or placed in rows to measure color respond best to non-contact based instrumentation to achieve the most accurate color analysis data.
Image Source: Flickr user Rebecca Siegel

Advanced technology and spectrophotometers

HunterLab is a leading name in spectrophotometric technology. Our instrumentation design is based off of years of experience with major food manufacturing companies. We research new ways to utilize existing technology and continually look for ways to make it better. The newest advancements in non-contact color analysis have evolved from real-life sample measurement challenges and we have worked with industries leaders to develop a tool that meets these various needs. Our new D25 NC is a non-contact color measurement tool that has been specifically developed for non-uniform and textured sample measurement. This versatile tool can be used for many different applications and our unique instrumentation is designed to adapt to various industry needs. For more information on non-contact color measurement spectrophotometers, contact HunterLab today.

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