Sweet or bland? How color influences food flavor

Beyond the color of the food or drink itself, we always see food together with the recipient it’s served in – a plate, a cup, a bowl or its packaging. And the color of that recipient seems to have a big impact on what we think we taste.

This seems a bit strange, but a growing body of research is showing that if you were to be served a red dessert – say strawberry ice cream – on a white plate, chances are that you will say it tastes sweeter than if you were to be served that same exact red ice cream on a black plate instead.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, has conducted similar experiments with pretty much every kind of food and tableware. His conclusion? That in most cases, our experience of food and drink is determined not by tastebuds alone, but by vision as well. Like strawberry ice cream tasting sweeter on a white plate, Spence thinks this is why coffee in a white cup is perceived to taste twice as intense than coffee in a clear cup. Even the spoon used to eat breakfast cereal or yogurt can make it a little bit sweeter or a little bit less depending on the color of that spoon.

There’s much to undiscover about color.

We can think of a few people who could leverage this information to their advantage. Restaurant chefs, for one, but also savvy food marketers. While much of the focus is usually placed on product presentation, the recipient and silverware used to serve or display that product should be given just as much thought. There’s much to undiscover about color making food packaging design and advertising communicate the right message to help bolster brand differentiation and preference.

But with the power of color comes great responsibility. When Coca-Cola launched their white Christmas limited edition can a few years ago, the complaints they received made them stop the campaign before it was even over: consumers mistakenly believed those cans were filled with something that certainly didn’t taste like Coke.

Get in touch with us today and let’s discuss how color can help set the right expectations for your brand.

Text credits: ARD / agi

Images credits: Adweek

Let’s discuss how color can help set the right expectations for your brand.
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