The Benefits of Non-Contact Color Technology: Measuring Cereals and Other Grain-Based Food Products

Cereals and grain-based food products are a diet staple around the world. According to Today Food, “almost half of all Americans—49 percent—start their day with a bowl of cereal, and on average we consume 100 bowls a year.” That amounts to nearly 3 billion packages of cereal each year, making cereal sales and production a leading industrial market in the United States.

Color technology plays a significant role in cereal manufacturing and development. Studies show that the visual quality of cereals can affect taste perception. Darker cereals are generally perceived as tasting burnt, while lighter cereals appear undercooked. In fact, color is often the first step toward quality control in nearly every stage of cereal manufacturing. Color technology instrumentation provides real-time information that alerts product developers to changes that must be made in production immediately, saving the producers both time and money.

corn flakes in milk color technology
Many American’s begin their day with a bowl of cereal. Color perception plays a large role in consumer choice, and many leading cereal manufacturers rely on color technology to meet consumer expectations and standards.
Image Source: Flickr user musicfanatic29

The importance of color technology

There are many variables affecting color in grain-based foods and cereals. Manufacturing processes, baking times, baking temperatures, and ingredient variables all affect the final color outcome. Using color technology can help to define and quantify these variables and provide specific data for the following processes:

  • Determining and monitoring the effects of various ingredients on product color outcome
  • Monitoring color changes in products during manufacturing, storage, and shelf-life changes
  • Quality control to meet specified standards and ensure color consistency between batches

Human visual assessment is important in order to meet consumer expectations, but variances between viewer perception lead to inconsistencies in quality and color. There are several variables that can interfere with color perception, including variations in light sources, changes in texture and consistency, angle of viewing, and quality of light. Spectrophotometers have the ability to control these variables and provide accurate data. Color technology is both rapid and repeatable, meaning that it provides multiple readings using real-time analysis. This technology allows productions teams to develop a color average that will define quality control standards across batches and for multiple manufacturing plants. Both the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and AACC (American Association of Cereal Chemists) International uphold spectrophotometry as a reliable method of color analysis in cereals and other grain-based food products as producers have come to depend on this color technology to meet specific standards and regulations.

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bulk cereal color technology
Spectrophotometric technology provides rapid and repeatable color measurement data, which leads to overall product consistency and quality.
Image Source: Flickr user Rocco Lucia

Non-contact color technology

While measuring color in cereal and grain products is beneficial, it does present a number of challenges. In a perfect world, all color measurement samples would be flat, even surfaces that are completely uniform in color. However, the reality is quite different, especially when it comes to cereals and other grain-based products. Irregular samples present many challenges in color measurement, but new color technology instrumentation uses revolutionary methods to streamline sample preparation and improve the color measurement process overall.

Non-contact spectrophotometers can accurately measure the color of nearly any sample type— all without touching the sample surface. This non-contact process eliminates many of the issues that occur with standard contact-based instrumentation. Advanced color technology features, such as automated sample height measurement, can reduce user errors and provide more accurate results. New laser technology specifically designed for sample height measurement can help to identify sample surface height by using ‘depth of field’ measurements to account for changes in non-uniform samples. This significantly reduces errors that occur between users by accounting for differences in poured product based samples.

grain-based foods color technology
Cereals and other grain-based food products are typically non-uniform and present challenges in color measurement. Non-contact instrumentation offers the best in color technology for addressing the challenges related to non-uniform sample measurement.
Image Source: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture

Leading color technology instrumentation

Non-uniform samples present many challenges in color measurement. At HunterLab, we specifically design our instrumentation to address these needs. Using the latest advancements in color technology, we have been able to revolutionize the sample preparation process and to simplify overall color measurement analysis. Our latest spectrophotometric technology offers automated measurements, reduced clean-up time, and an overall improvement in the color measurement processes. The features that make our instrumentation unique include:

  • Non-Contact Color Measurement: measures the sample itself, eliminating variations that are present from second surface reflectance.
  • Ambient Light Rejection: eliminates errors from these outside light sources.
  • Automated Sample Height Measurement: identifies sample surface height and uses depth of field measurement to account for changes in non-uniform samples.
  • Simplified User Interface: “One-Touch” measurement capabilities that make operation both simple and effective.
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For more information on non-contact color technology and spectrophotometric analysis in cereals and other grain-based food products, contact HunterLab today.

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