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The Secret Life of Colorful Food

Posted July 19, 2016 by Tim Mouw

There’s been a lot of research around the role color plays in how we expect food to taste. The fact is, we judge flavor by the color of the food or drink, even before the first taste. We expect red foods to taste sweet like strawberries or cherries. White should taste like vanilla, and green is probably limey and tart or minty. Color cues can even determine whether we take that first bite. On the wrong food, like mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie, most of us won’t try green at all!

Green Pumpkin Pie

In the heat of summer – when a sweet, refreshing treat is all that’s on your mind – would you buy a brand of ice cream if the cartons on the shelf are off-color? The Algida ice cream factory in Corlu, northwestern Turkey, knows the likely answer is no. That’s why they came to us for help tightening their process control, so that each batch not only tastes great, but has uniform color.

As you can imagine, the color of ice cream – or any food for that matter – is not the easiest thing to measure. Here are the top four things manufacturers must consider when measuring food, and how X-Rite solutions can help.

1. Batch color will vary based on the ingredients.

StrawberriesA big challenge in getting the color of food right is that the color of the ingredients can vary between crops, suppliers, and even seasons. Take strawberry ice cream for instance. To achieve a uniform color in the final product, each piece of fruit must be a shade of red that falls within specific tolerances. Even various types of cocoa used in making chocolate flavors have different shades of brown and red.

Measuring the variation in your incoming ingredients can help you quantify the color differences to allow you to adjust recipes for better color control.

2. Ingredients reflect light differently.

Most manufactured food products contain both solid and liquid ingredients, which reflect light differently. Spectrophotometers like the Ci7800 benchtop are able to measure in both reflectance and transmission modes to accommodate any type of ingredient.

Algida also needed to consider that ice cream is made up largely of casein micelles, fat globules, air cells and ice crystals, all of which reflect light in different intensities depending on the composition of the recipe. Smaller particles and larger volumes of air bubbles will cause the uncolored ice cream to take on a lighter apparent color. The VS450 non-contact spectrophotometer features an integrated gloss sensor for relative gloss measurements.

3. The device can’t come in contact with the food.

Not only is this a safety concern, but the differing shapes and texture of food ingredients can make them a challenge to measure. We offer specially designed accessories for many of our instruments to help measure these hard-to-hold samples. These “rigs and jigs” enable spectros to measure odd shaped, powdered, and liquid ingredients.

The X-Rite VS450 with an attachment to measure powdered ingredients.

The X-Rite VS450 with an attachment to measure powdered ingredients.

4. It has to happen fast.

Manufacturing plants move fast, and missing a shift in color can have serious financial implications if not caught quickly. By measuring the color of samples frequently, quality control personnel can catch and correct small mistakes before they become big problems. Quality control software like Color iQC can help you streamline color measurement and recording so you have a centralized place for data analysis, reporting, and trend setting.

And for higher volume operations, take a page out of Smurfit Kappa’s book. The manufacturer of corrugated and carton board uses inline color measurement systems to precisely control product color.

What did Algida choose?

Algida Ice CreamAlgida selected a hardware and software package that harnessed the power of the VS450 spectrophotometer. With the ability to measure wet or dry samples, the VS450 spectro and software can link production data with shop manufacturing variables, such as ingredients in a particular batch or mixing time. The instrument can be positioned horizontally or vertically to measure odd-shaped or bulky samples at a distance of about 38mm, and measurements can be uploaded directly to a computer for analysis. X-Rite also customized the proper holders to measure test samples, and Algida installed the VS450 non-contact spectro in the lab.

With the help of X-Rite technology, Algida is maintaining its reputation for color quality. You can, too. For more information about how manufacturers use X-Rite’s solutions for measuring food, check out the Algida case study or the Bacardi Mojito blog, or get in touch so we can help you choose the best package for your needs.


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