Color Trumps Taste

Color Trumps TasteThe color of a drink influences our perception of how sweet it tastes and can even fool our taste buds

In the same way we can make a snap judgement about a product by the color of its packaging, we judge a drink by its color. In the case of orange juice the brighter the hue of orange the sweeter we think it tastes.

The March issue of the Journal of Consumer Research finds that our perception of taste is directly influenced by the color of a drink. While that might not seem so suprising, what might be is the fact that researchers found that color was more of an influence than the product’s quality or price.

Researchers are looking at how individual attributes — such as color, price, or brand — can affect which products we prefer. Hoegg and Alba measured what influenced people’s perceptions by changing the color of orange juice, changing the sweetness, or by labeling the glasses with brand and quality information.

While brand name influenced some people’s preferences for one cup of juice over another, they found that simply labeling one cup a premium brand and the other an inexpensive store brand had no effect on perceptions of taste.

However the same wasn’t true when it came to the color of the orange juice. The color had a huge effect on the taster’s perception of taste. As the authors put it: “color dominated taste”.

When presented with two glasses of orange juice, one of which had its color enhanced with food coloring, the sampler’s perceived differences in taste that did not exist. However, when given two glasses of orange juice that were the same color, with one cup sweetened with sugar, the same people failed to perceive taste differences.

“It seems unlikely that our consumers deliberately eschewed taste for color as a basis for discrimination”, write the authors. “Moreover, our consumers succumbed to the influence of color but were less influenced by the powerful lure of brand and price information.”