When choosing a food product, consumers demand consistency in both taste and appearance. While a lighter batch of oranges may still produce a delicious juice blend, a pale color can jeopardize USDA approval and leave consumers questioning the quality.
Unfortunately for food and beverage manufacturers, the color of food – especially drinks like fruit juice and blended cocktails – is one of the most difficult things to control during production.
1. Liquid is hard to measure.
To measure the color of opaque objects, spectrophotometers shine light onto the surface and measure the color of light that reflects back. But when you shine light on a translucent liquid, it goes right through. Check out our Transmission vs. Reflection: Which Benchtop is Right? blog to learn more.
2. The measurement device cannot touch the sample.
If the spectrophotometer comes in contact with the beverage, it will contaminate the sample and coat the optics, skewing the measurement and potentially damaging the instrument.
3. Raw ingredients play a big role.
Raw ingredients for beverage blends can include any combination of liquids, solids, and powders. Even a small change in lot-to-lot color can make a big difference in the color of the final mix, especially when dealing with natural ingredients like fruit, which can vary in color.
Lack of color control is an expensive mistake. Imagine mixing a 10,000-gallon batch of fruit punch, only to discover it doesn’t meet color standards and must be dumped. To produce accurate beverage color, you need strict color standards and a consistent production process.
USDA Approval for Orange Juice Grading
The USDA recently approved the X-Rite Ci7600 spectrophotometer and Color iQC software for color grading orange juice. This solution calculates color scores for frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ), canned concentrated orange juice (CCOJ), concentrated orange juice for manufacturing (COJFM), pasteurized orange juice (POJ), canned single strength orange juice (CSSOJ), and orange juice from concentrate (OJFC) to deliver verified results.
To get a USDA grade shield – the official label seal that verifies the quality and integrity of an agricultural product – manufacturers must go through a rigorous review process by highly-skilled graders and auditors from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to ensure color and quality standards.
Good News: It’s Not Just for Orange Juice!
X-Rite’s Ci7600 spectrophotometer fitted with a test tube holder, and Color iQC software offers a complete solution to calculate recipes, monitor color quality, and deliver verified results for any beverage manufacturer. Here’s how it works.
1. The Ci7600 Spectrophotometer
The Ci7600 can measure in transmission mode to accurately capture the color of liquids. It works by shining all of the wavelengths of light, from 360 - 750, through the sample. Detectors on the other side pick up the wavelengths and amount of light that made it through and quantify it as a percentage of average transmission.
Purples, indigos, and blues have shallow wavelengths, from 400 – 550. Greens are in the middle, from 550 – 600. Yellows, oranges, and reds provide the longest wavelengths. OBAs and fluorescent agents (think laundry detergent) peak over 100%.
The Ci7600 comes with four transmission apertures as well as five reflectance apertures. This enables manufacturers to measure the color of solid, shiny, and powdered raw ingredients.
2. A Fitted Test Tube Holder
The Ci7600 can be fitted with a test tube holder to hold and measure liquid without touching the sample. This holder attaches magnetically to minimize risk to the instrument when presenting samples. It can be fitted with additional accessories, called rigs and jigs, to measure odd shaped, powdered, and hard-to-hold ingredients without contact.
3. Color iQC Software
Once the Ci7600 takes the measurement, it sends the data to Color iQC software for analysis. It can calculate accurate recipes based on the color of the raw ingredients, adjust recipes to consider color variations, and spot check production color to manage issues before the entire batch is wasted.
The Bacardi Bottling Company uses Color iQC to calculate accurate correct recipes for their blended Mojito beverage. According to John Scussel, Bacardi Lab Supervisor, “The graphic representations are great. We build what we call the color box – a rectangle that gives you a graphic representation of the color specs. It’s easy to see, to understand, and to print out. You can put it in someone’s hands and show them why they are off – ‘Oh, it’s a little too yellow.’”
The software can also record measurements, process parameters, job history, and other information to share quality data with individuals both on site and at other locations. It can even predict the color of products by inputting information about the ingredients of recipes, essentially performing virtual trials without mixing the formulas, a huge help for manufacturers who must continually adjust recipes to maintain consistent flavor and appearance.
Using the quantitative values, natural ingredient producers can accurately evaluate the quality of their products and beverage manufacturers can adjust recipes based on color variations in raw ingredients.
Establishing Batch-to-Batch Accuracy
Do you measure liquids or beverages? We’re available to help you determine the right solution for your needs and set up your own color grading system to verify batch-to-batch accuracy. Get in touch for personalized help.