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Color of food product

Consumer

Experience Quality Maturity Like/dislike

Figure 1. Food color considerations for the consumer and for the food technologist.

recognize when colored red. This is because red is associated with red fruits, thus a red-colored orange gelatin sends the wrong visual cue. This is of such proportion that it is difficult to rely on the messages sent by the taste buds and olfactory receptor.

In practice consumers do not isolate their sensory perceptions of a food but combine them in obtaining a total assessment for a food. This association is sufficiently strong that when asked to separate them there may still be a strong influence of one sensory perception on another. Yet the visual sense is both sophisticated and sensitive, it is only that experience has confirmed what the eye sees, which has caused the interaction of the senses to become unconscious.

The technologist has an interest in the color of food for several reasons. One is the need to maintain a uniformity of color over production runs. A second is the avoidance of color changes brought about by chemical reactions occurring during processing or storage life of the product. A third is the optimizing of color and appearance in relation to consumer preference. A fourth is the maintenance of a color in accordance with consumer experience and expectations. The need to maintain color uniformity over production runs varies with the food and especially with the packaging used. For example, the need is greater for fruit juices packaged in clear containers than for those packaged in individual drinking boxes where very little of the juice is actually seen. The color problems of processed green vegetables are examples of color changes arising from unstable pigment reactions. The retailing practices of fresh meat, particularly beef, have been limited for many years by the need to maintain meat pigments in the bright cherry red of oxymyoglobin because of the strong effect on consumer acceptability.

For many new products the product developer must consider the eye appeal of the product, and this should be given serious consideration in consumer acceptability ratings in any optimization procedure undertaken. The need to be aware of dynamic consumer reactions in regard to color and appearance is paramount. What is preferred in the color of a product is influenced by experience and availability and changes over time. The replacement of nitrites for curing meat products is complicated by the fact that the nitrites contribute to the characteristic color of cured meat. A satisfactory replacement has yet to be found. To support the deletion of nitrites from the process, consumers must exhibit sufficient concern about their diets that they would be willing to accept brown cured meat products or at least products that appeared different from those to which they are accustomed.

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