How does food colour affect consumer preferences compared to flavour, aroma, texture and other key attributes?

31 May, 2012
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How Does Food Colour Affect Consumer Preferences Compared to Flavour, Aroma, Texture and Other Key Attributes?

Louisville, KY, USA — How does colour affect consumer preferences compared to flavour, aroma, texture and other key attributes? DDW explores this question in the Expert Answers Video Series. To answer this question, DDW turned to Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) spokesperson and industry expert Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

The answer, Shelke tells DDW, might be traced back to our ancestry. “Humans are intrinsically wired,” Shelke says, “to make judgments of safety, nutrition, and pleasure value in foods.”


Citing well-known author Malcom Gladwell, Shelke says that the colour of foods and beverages influences the tipping point moment when many consumers are determing whether or not to choose a particular food or beverage product. In that moment, she says a product’s colour affects the “judgment that goes a long way to decide how a person will respond” to the product.

“We eat with our eyes.”
During a previous interview with ABC News, Shelke also said, “We eat with our eyes before we ever smell or taste.” Shelke added, “The colour cues are very important” to consumers.”

Watch the full ABC News interview:

This belief is supported by other experts, too. DDW CEO Ted Nixon has often said, “If food does not taste good, people will not try it again. If it doesn’t look good, they may not try it at all.”

Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, adds: “Colour plays a key role in food choice by influencing taste thresholds, sweetness, perception, food preference, pleasantness and acceptability.”

How can natural colours help influence consumer preferences?
In a previous Expert Answers interview, DDW’s Claudio Ferri said, “Naturally coloured products give the consumer a greater sense of pleasure and are also much more pure [or non-synthetic].”

Is it possible for flavour, aroma, texture or another key attribute to outweight the importance of colour in a consumer product?
While it might be possible for another attribute to outweigh the importance of a food or beverage product’s colour, Shelke is quick to point out that “not many foods have flavour, aroma or texture attributes that can override their colour properties.” In conclusion, colour is still the key attribute that influences the mind of the consumer when choosing a food or beverage product.

About Kantha Shelke
Shelke is Founder and Principal of Corvus Blue LLC, a consumer packaged goods consultancy, and is also a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). She is a food chemist with a diverse food science background, expediting new products and technology in food and nutrition. Learn more about Shelke’s professional food industry experience and accomplishments.

DDW’S Expert Answers Series
Expert Answers Series interviews with food and beverage industry experts
Launched in December of 2011, DDW’s Expert Answers Video Series helps food scientists, chemists, students, professors, and others in the food and beverage industry stay informed with brief, focused interviews with industry-leading experts. View all Expert Answers videos and articles.

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