Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Color of Food

I was reading an article recently in Baking Business which underscored the need for food to look as good as it tastes. While many consumers are looking to 'upgrade' their eating choices to a more healthful stage, they also want food that looks appetizing. A study done by the R&D firm of DD Williamson of Louisville KY, shows that while something may say it's a healthy choice, may have a sufficient amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fiber, unless it looks good, we're not eating it. So manufacturers are finding the need to still add artificial colors to give the food a palatable look.

Color plays a huge role in a consumers perception of good food. Does anyone really want to eat blue ketchup? Well, okay maybe there are a few children out there that will find it exciting, however most adults are still grabbing the red version of ketchup. Color of food actually sets off neurons in the hypothalmus. Interestingly enough, food must look good enough to eat before a sighted individual can be convinced of it's food-worthiness. So when a company fails on a food product, it may not be the marketplace, it could just be it didn't "look" good. Kind of reminds me of the Billy Crystal - Ricardo Montalban schtick!

So what do you do when your food doesn't look good? Well, for manufacturers they turn to the old stand-bys: Certified colors. You know them. You've seen them on just about every food label printed. There are only seven certified colors! Wow only seven! They are, in no particular order, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. They add a specific amount of these colors to bring out the best look of a product.

For baked goods Yellow 5 is the most commonly used. It makes food look rich. I should say it helps food appear rich. The food itself is rich, however it has a coloration problem. You could say it's like George Hamilton, until he gets a good tan, he just doesn't seem all that appealing. Thus the color addition.

So don't be put off by a color addition in your favorite foods. It's there for a reason, and it probably wouldn't be your favorite food for long without it. We are emotional beings. Go with the emotion of color and let it work it's magic for you!

We'll talk about natural colorants in another post soon.