How Color Changes What We Taste

By Clara Olshansky |
FWX THE COLORS WE EAT

© Mathery Studios/Nautilus

If you don't like the wine you're drinking, don't buy a new bottle; just change the lighting. Research suggests that the taste we perceive is about more than just taste and even smell. Color can change the taste of food. 

According to Nautilus, our brain predicts how we will taste food based on previous instances consuming that food and the color associated with that instance.  For example, bright colors make us expect something to taste sweet. If we are used to bright red strawberries being sweeter, if we taste a strawberry that's colored brighter, our brains are going to tell us it's sweeter. The tongue tastes how sweet it actually is, but our associations predict it will be sweet based on what we know about bright fruits. 

Major food companies use this to market their products to us willing consumers by scanning their products to make sure the colors are right before they hit the shelves. To totally ensure that taste testers aren't swayed by the coloring of the product they taste test under red lighting to prevent bias. There's even a business, Munsell, that sells commercially ideal color standards to food companies. Olives, honey, and even French fries are matched to their ideal tones to make us think they taste better.

Similarly, when things are the wrong color, they taste strange to us. In the Heinz introduced the Heinz EZ squirt bottle.  The ketchup inside was not the well-known dark red, instead it condiment was a purple hue which was not well received.   

Using this principle, here are some tips for entertaining company: coffee in a blue mug tastes sweeter than coffee in a white mug. Tea will seem colder in a glass container. Mousse on a round white plate tastes better than mousse on a square black plate. And next time an orange tastes perfectly sweet, you can thank your eyes. For more about how color influences taste check out the full report on Nautilus.

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