Colours: The Soul of FOOD
We are all moved by the colours whether we are aware of it or not. Most of us know that warm colours (reds and oranges) can stimulate and spur us into action while the cooler colours (blues and violets) serve to calm and relax us.
Colour could be characterized as food for our emotions. Colour can increase a sense of well-being, lift the spirits, and create a serene setting in which to explore oneself or clarify solutions to everyday problems.
I always used to wonder why I love to visit a Vegetable Bazar or why I always love to click pictures of fruits. I would spend a good time on a Sunday morning to be in bazaar and just keep looking at the vegetable and fruit vendors even if I have no intension to buy them. Today when I look back I realise that how colours impact human mind and how much we all are associated with colours.
There are many reasons to consider before applying natural colours to food and beverages
• Heat – colour degradation
• Light – colour degradation
• Oxygen – oxidation over time
• Ph – shade, solubility
• Chemical interactions – Cations, Oxidizers, Reducing Agents
• Ascorbic acid – beneficial to some and detrimental to others
• Taste Impact – good to start with colour& then add flavours
• Shelf Life – what is the target shelf life of the product
• Colour Interaction – not all colours are compatible together
• Regulations – what regulations must be considered, country specific, cultural, etc.
• Packaging – oxygen permeability and transmission of light
People associate certain colours with certain flavours, and the colour of food can influence the perceived flavour in anything from candy to wine. Sometimes the aim is to simulate a colour that is perceived by the consumer as natural, such as adding red colouring to glazed cherries (which would otherwise be beige), but sometimes it is for effect, like the green ketchup that Heinz launched in 1999. Colour additives are used in foods for many reasons including:
Colour additives are recognized as an important part of many foods we eat.
Natural food colours can make a variety of different hues
A growing number of natural food dyes are being commercially produced, partly due to consumer concerns surrounding synthetic dyes. Some examples include:
To ensure reproducibility, the coloured components of these substances are often provided in highly purified form, and for increased stability and convenience, they can be formulated in suitable carrier materials (solid and liquids). Hexane, acetone and other solvents break down cell walls in the fruit and vegetables and allow for maximum extraction of the colouring. Residues of these often remain in the finished product, but they do not need to be declared on the product; this is because they are part of a group of substances known as carry-over ingredients.
Colours derived from natural sources have been gaining popularity and market share in recent years. These “natural” colours have shown an annual growth rate of approximately 4% while sales of synthetic or FD&C colours remain stagnant. Reasoning for this includes possible health benefits of natural colours, improved technological performance, and more affordability. Most recently negative press towards synthetic colours particularly in the European Union has swayed public interest in favour of those derived from natural sources.
Natural food colours, due to their organic nature, can sometimes cause allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in sensitive individuals. Colouring agents known to be potential hazards include annatto, cochineal and carmine.
Colours in Food Packaging
When you walk through the aisles of supermarket you can see various products in different kinds of packages and in different colours. But why do manufacturers use certain colours and avoid others?
Everybody knows that colours are connected with certain feelings. For example, why do some people paint the walls of their rooms yellow and others pink? The same is true in stores. Producers want us to feel something when we look at their products.
Green, for example, tries to show the quality of a product, how good it is for us or for our environment. It also signalizes that the product is healthier, has less fat and maybe fewer calories. Red, on the other hand is an aggressive colour that is often used for packaging food. Red wants to us to become hungry or thirsty. Purple is colour that is very rare. It indicates that it is something special. Producers use purple to show that something is of good quality. Blue is not very often found in food packaging because there are not very many foods that have a blue colour.
Colours are often associated with flavours. An orange
flavoured product uses an orange packaging; any other colour would be unnatural. Chocolate and other foods with cacao in them often use brown packaging.
Colours can also have different meanings in different cultures and countries. Green for example is not widely used in Egypt, maybe because the country’s national colour is green.
Consumers are aware that certain foods or beverages must have certain colours. When Pepsi brought out a crystal clear cola in 1992 it thought that consumers would buy it because clear meant pure and healthy. After a few months Pepsi found out that a cola had to be dark-colour. Crystal Pepsi failed and the company pulled it out of the market.
Advertising professionals often need to look at a product through the consumer’s eyes when choosing a colour. The right packaging colours can truly improve the sales of a product but choosing a wrong colour could end in failure.
When we talk about food we just can not ignore the vegetable and fruits which come to us from nature. Have you ever thought how different colours of vegetables and fruits appeal to us and how they are useful to our health? Needless to mention, to prevent chronic diseases fruits and vegetables are very important. Vegetables have lots of minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals which keep the blood sugar in balance and fruits keep the immune system strong.
Every colour found in fruits and vegetables has its own value and function. So a variety of colour can be added in our daily diet.
Eating fruits and vegetables as whole gives more nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The different colour in fruits and vegetables helps our immune system and stresses in our daily life.
Briefly speaking the manufacturers of food items /colours/ flavour primarily must keep the four things in mind that human manifest their colour preferences in four ways. (1) Engagement (2) Cultural (3) Familiarity (4) Archetypal. These four factors are associated with almost all the areas of life including food. For example ENAGAGMENT concerns how a person has engaged himself or herself with different colours during his upbringing and education process. These engagements arise out the experiences how a person has been exposed to colours. Cultural manifestation is associated with the cultural influences. For example roast beef & fish and chips are essence of Englishness. Green food represents a new beginning in a Jewish New Year celebration. Ring shaped onion, pastries meat balls signify continuity, golden colour looking items such as pumpkin, sliced carrots, squash and honey, represent prosperity.
Everyday staple food is associated with familiarity and brings in a sense of emotional security. E.g. if you are working in Alaska and you are served with Idlee Sambar in breakfast you feel at the top of the world. If you hit a store selling South Indian items in Alaska your sense of security immediately goes up and you feel nice just being visiting the store. Same way an inappropriately and unnaturally coloured food arouses suspension and unsettles the human mind. Archrtypal manifestations are nothing but the psychological side of the human mind. Red and yellow colour looks so “WARM” on the other hand green and blue are regarded as “COLD’
Undoubtedly colours have symbolic value attached to our day to day life but there is a paradoxical situation also. Eg. Green is a colour of growth and freshness, so green is a welcome colour and it is considered “Positive” but green is also colour of putrid meat signifying “BAD’. Therefore all colours can have negative or positive connotation with in strictly defined parameters that are set by context, by our upbringing, education, or by the usage, or are nurtured with in us by way of our biological programming throughout our lifetime.