The Taste of Success: How Colorimetry Can Exploit the Brain’s Perception of Food Quality

Colorimetry has been used in a variety of scientific studies to create specific color standards and visual comparisons. The standards and comparisons within this field can be of great value when evaluating color and consistently repeating data. Test results in colorimetrics through the use of spectrophotometers can give us a wealth of information about the choices we make that are dependent on color, especially those involving the foods we eat.
Green to yellow bananas
Color is a deciding factor for consumers when it comes to food choices. Food has to “look right” to “taste right.” Image source: Flickr user Ian Ransley

The “taste” of color

Color is one of the main factors consumers use when making choices in food. Color acts as an indicator for freshness or spoilage, how cooked or done a food appears, and it even affects our perception of flavor. Input involving these senses originates in one specific area of the brain. Just like electrical wiring, these input connections can oftentimes cross one another or connect one sensory reaction to another.This is why many people associate a specific color with a certain flavor expectation. Typically a yellow-green color indicates something sour, whereas pink and purple are more commonly associated with sweetness.

chocolate chip cookies
Judging by color, which cookie do you believe tastes better?

If a food color does not match the predetermined flavor expectation, it will often times be rejected. If you picked up a glass filled with a clear liquid thinking it was water, but upon taking a swig you were appalled by the taste of cola, this would align with the theory. Even if you regularly enjoy refreshing cola beverages, your brain will most likely reject the flavor because the color didn’t match your expectation.

Food producers and manufacturers rely heavily on these theories to determine the color options and choices needed for customer satisfaction. The science of color-psychology dictates many of the color choices we see today and is highly dependent on color technology. The ability to consistently reproduce the same color option is essential for product appeal and is often the deciding factor in consumer choice.

Spectrophotometers: the key to color consistency, repeatability, and food safety

When it comes to product choices, color expectations are automatically linked to flavor expectations, which translate to quality for the consumer. In the food industry, the applications of colorimetry and the use of spectrophotometers are essential when it comes to creating a product that repeatedly maintains color consistency. Color reliability is an expectation in today’s food market and a pivotal deciding factor in consumer choice.

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These consistencies are not only linked to consumer satisfaction. Spectrophotometers also serve an important role in the safety of food products. Color differentiations in meat, fish, and poultry can indicate changes in freshness and/or spoiling. In fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, color variations can detect degradation and loss of quality. Both the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have stringent guidelines for color in foods and require the highest level of technology in colorimetry and spectrophotometry to maintain compliance. Even when foods meet these requirements, there are often times still variations in color. Despite safety and freshness, consumers depend on specific color expectations which influence their perspective of food freshness and safety. They simply will not buy a product that does not meet their visual standards.

Advancements in colorimetric technology

The food industry today has been revolutionized by advancements in technology, color measurement, and spectrophotometry. Precise use of color measurement is needed to obtain the accurate results necessary for developing a product that meets the ‘cognitive expectations’ of the consumer. Using quantifiable color readings creates consistency in food product colors and translates into quality and a regularity of choice for the consumer.

For monitoring the color of foods, it is best to use a light variable that comes closest to what is seen by the human eye. A Directional 45°/0° reflectance instrument emulates the natural functioning of the eye and gives the most reliable readings for real-life perspectives and choice. Measurement tools should utilize human-eye technology to match consumer analysis and satisfaction.

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HunterLab produces best in class spectrophotometers, and they lead the industry in innovative technology, offering a wide-range of solutions. Visit HunterLab today for all your spectrophotometric and color-measurement needs.


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