Many of us often have our sense of taste fooled by our sense of sight.
So why does our taste buds get deceived by our eyes? We expect our food to taste like what we see. When the color of the food is off or different from what we expect, our brain tells us that it will taste different. Scientific studies proved that we frequently judge food quality based on colors to identify the taste, which ultimately affects our purchase decision.
Our taste buds play a significant role in determining the four basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Signals will be sent from our taste buds to our brain to interpret flavor. However, before we eat our food, we will look at it first; this sends signals to our brain to interpret the taste of the food before we actually consume it, predetermining the expected taste and flavor of the food.
Human associate colors with food, and equate these colors to certain tastes and flavors. For example, black colored food should be bitter or have a burnt flavor, bright colors like yellow are perceived as sweet or sour, red is perceived as spicy.
For fresh food, such as fruits and vegetables, we rely on color to determine their level of ripeness and freshness. So if the color of a food product does not match our expectations, we will psychological perceive its taste and flavor differently.
Apart from color, presentation also plays a part in our perception of how food taste.
In a research, researchers asked participants to rate the flavor of the same coffee poured into three different colored mugs – white, blue, and clear. The results showed that most rated the coffee from the white mug as having a more intense and bitter taste than that of the blue and clear mugs.
In another study, the colors of plates also prove to influence the perception of food. Participants in this study rated the same mousse sampled from a white plate to be sweeter than that of the black plate.
The role color plays in our perception of taste has long been researched by food companies to better understand consumer behavior and how colors impacts the perception of their products. Food companies use this psychological effect to their advantage. Food coloring or dyes are often added to processed, packaged, and even fresh foods to enhance the impression of a food product to ascertain a certain taste, flavor, or quality.
About the Author: Garie Xu
Garie Xu is the Sales Engineer of Konica Minolta Sensing Singapore Pte Ltd. Graduated from a manufacturing engineering background, he is mainly involved in sales, seminar, training and coaching in the field of light and color management. With his prior 3 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry and 2 years in Konica Minolta, he is providing solutions to the many industrial applications. He has also conducted seminars and workshops to educate the industry on instrumentation technologies and color science.