DIET
January 18, 2013

The Color of Flavor

The color of the dish in which food is served affects its flavor, making it taste better, or worse. There's just one problem...

If your coffee doesn’t seem to taste as good as it used to, you may want to try a different color mug. New research adds more evidence to the idea that the color of the container in which a food or beverage is served has a great impact on our perceptions of taste and smell.

European researchers served 57 participants hot chocolate in four different plastic cups. All of the cups were the same size, and all had a white interior. But the outside color of the cups differed — some cups were white, some cream, some red, and some were orange. Participants were asked to rank their enjoyment of the beverage, as well as the sweetness, flavor, and chocolate aroma on a scale of 1 to 10.

The study should encourage anyone involved with serving food, from dinner hosts to chefs restaurateurs to caterers, and even food manufacturers to give more thought to the color of dishes and packaging.

Hot chocolate served in orange or cream-colored cups scored the highest on flavor while white cups got the lowest score of any other color cup. The participants perceived the beverage sipped from cream-colored cups as sweeter and more aromatic, but only slightly so.

"There is no fixed rule stating that flavor and aroma are enhanced in a cup of a certain color or shade," said Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, one of the researchers involved in the study, in a press release. "In reality this varies depending on the type of food, but the truth is that, as this effect occurs, more attention should be paid to the color of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine."

Previous research has also shown that color has an impact on consumer’s perceptions of food and beverages. Drinks served in pink containers are perceived to be sweeter, brown packaging makes coffee seem stronger, and beverages in blue containers are perceived to be better at quenching thirst. Though the color of a food container does appear to affect consumers’ perception of the taste of foods and drinks, the reason for this is not understood.

The study should encourage anyone involved with serving food, from dinner hosts and caterers to chefs and restaurateurs, to give more thought to the color of dishes and packaging. As Piqueras-Fiszman explains, "it is a case of experimenting to understand how the container itself affects the perceptions that the consumers have on the product."

The study was published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.

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