Why Colour?

To understand why natural colours are so important for improving the visual appeal of food and beverage products, it is helpful to understand the science, psychology and history of colour.

The Science of Colour

The science of colour is referred to as chromatics, colourimetry, or colour science. It includes the perception of colour by the human eye and brain, the origin of colour in materials, colour theory in art, and the physics of electromagnectic radiation in the visible range — commonly referred to as “light.”

Two identical colours with the same dosage can differ in appearance by adding opacity (lightness or darkness) to the hue. You’ll notice that variations of the same colour can still vary by lightness, hue and chroma. Lightness describes the closeness of the colour to black or white. The hue describes how the colour of the object is perceived within a colour family. The chroma describes the saturation of a colour, or separation from grey.

The tint of a colour can be made lighter by adding white. The tone of the colour is determined by adding gray. The shade of a colour can be made darker by adding black.

People’s judgments of flavor identity are often affected by the changing of a food or drink’s colour.”- Does Food Colour Influence Taste and Flavor Perception in Humans?(Chemosensory Perception, March 2010, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 68-84)

The Importance of Colour

Colour plays a key role in food choice by influencing taste thresholds, sweetness, perception, food preference, pleasantness and acceptability.– Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D.

The Psychology of Colour

It’s long been known that the colour of food affects the consumer’s perception of taste — and the saying “we eat with our eyes” is nothing new. In the following report by ABC News, food industry expert Kantha Shelke discusses why the visual appeal of foods and beverages can be so important:

Shelke, who has a background in food chemistry, asserts that colour cues in food and beverage products are very important to consumers. There are some very psychological reasons behind this. For example, red coloured foods are typically associated with sweetness — such as strawberry or cherry flavors. By contrast, yellow coloured foods are associated with sour flavors like lemons. Green is perceived as tart in flavor, such as apples or limes. Darker colours such as black, blue or purple can actually be perceived as negative by consumers, because those colours are associated with spoiled or rotten foods. These colour associations were upheld during a study by ABC News with help from Kantha Shelke.

This same colour psychology phenomenon was also reported by the Journal of Consumer Research (March 2007), which found that consumer taste perceptions were directly influenced by beverage colour. In fact, colour was more influential in consumer product preference than price or even product quality — stunning evidence of just how important colour is! Authors of the report stated: “Colour dominated taste.”

Colour expert Kate Smith summarized the report in her blog entry “Colour Trumps Taste” by saying:

“While brand name influenced some people’s preferences for one cup of juice over another, [researchers] found that simply labeling one cup a premium brand and the other an inexpensive store brand had no effect on perceptions of taste. However, the same wasn’t true when it came to the colour of the orange juice. The colour had a huge effect on the taster’s perception of taste.”

As the report authors determined: “Our consumers succumbed to the influence of colour but were less influenced by the powerful lure of brand and price information.”

— Source: Colour Affects, London, UK. Copyright 2008 – 2012, Angela Wright.

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DDW is a world leader in caramel colour and natural colouring sources for food and beverage applications.

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