October 14, 2014

Would You Eat Green Cheese?

food color psychologyIt sounds a little bit like a Dr. Seuss rhyme, doesn’t it?  In fact, there was an entire Dr. Seuss children’s book about how one character would not ‘eat green eggs and ham’ due in part to the fact that the color was ‘off.’  Turns out it’s not just in Dr. Seuss books where color and food play a major role in people’s flavor perceptions.

You know that color plays a large role in your branding and packaging, but did you know that it also plays a big role in what people think of your product and can even alter how they think it tastes?  For example, would you eat green cheese?  Or blue strawberry jam?  Even if all the ingredients are the same, studies have found that consumers would *think* that mis-colored food tasted differently because of its color.

This isn’t new news to food scientists who have long tinkered with colors of manufactured food products to try and make them more appealing to consumers.  They add more red dust to chips, for example, that are supposed to be hot to help identify them as ‘hot’ to the consumer.  But for those food artisans who are dedicated to staying as natural as possible with the products, the color modification of others can have an impact on how consumers perceive you.  In a way, you are playing a bit of psychological warfare and are outgunned by the food scientists and companies who see nothing wrong with added and artificial colors to boost a product.   So what is a food artisan to do?

Ask yourself what color consumers expect your product to be and see if yours is ‘within the ballpark’ to your consumers.  If not, are there natural tools you can use to maximize your products’ colors.  Alternatively, do you have the opportunity to explain to consumers, either in-person or through your marketing efforts, why the color may be different from what they’re used to but why that difference is important (for example, you are opting not to use artificial color enhancers).

Unfortunately when it comes to the food industry, the deck is very much stacked in favor of the large product manufacturers who have helped shape how consumers think when it comes to food but that doesn’t mean you’re not out of the game altogether.  Just like at the end of that aforementioned Dr. Seuss book, you may be able to convert customers so that even something like green eggs is eaten with enjoyment.

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