The Influence of Color and Label Information on Flavor Perception

Abstract

Previous research that has manipulated either the color of, or labeling information associated with, foods and beverages has shown that each of these factors can significantly influence perceptual and preferential responses to them. The present study examined how the simultaneous manipulation of these two cues (color and label) affects perception of, and hedonic responses to, flavor. Thirty participants rated 12 chocolate M&Ms (identical aside from their color), described as coming from a “new line of chocolate products,” for the intensity of their chocolate flavors (“chocolatey-ness”) and their hedonic qualities (“likeability”). In the color-only condition, sighted participants received two green and two brown M&Ms. In the label-only condition, blindfolded participants received two M&Ms that were labeled as being from a “milk chocolate category” and two M&Ms that were labeled as being from a “dark chocolate category.” In the color–label condition, sighted participants received an M&M of each of the four possible color–label combinations. The participants rated brown M&Ms as being significantly more chocolatey than green M&Ms and “dark chocolate”-labeled M&Ms as being significantly more chocolatey than “milk chocolate”-labeled ones. No such effects were observed for the likability data. There was no interaction between the color and label factors. These results illustrate that flavor perception involves the combining of chemosensory information with both visual (color) information and cognitive, expectancy-based (label) inputs.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    It was important that people did not have any specific preconceptions about different colors of the chosen candy tasting different from one another. A small survey study was, therefore, conducted in which 30 participants were asked the question, “Do you think that different colored M&Ms taste different?” Two thirds of the participants replied “No,” thus, providing evidence that in general people do not believe certain colored M&Ms to have different flavors from the others (Levitan et al. 2008). Thus, since our participants were unlikely to have had any expectations that different M&Ms would taste any different as a function of their color, any associations we interpret as guiding their ratings can be explained by appealing to more generalized or M&M nonspecific color–flavor associations.

  2. 2.

    While the authors assumed that participants understood “chocolatey-ness” as reflecting differences in chocolate cocoa intensity (given the chocolate samples they were presented with that ranged from white to dark), future experiments should test whether participants are able to successfully discriminate between these types of chocolates in preliminary blind-tasting tests.

  3. 3.

    The following mean Likability Ratings were observed: Likability Ratings in the Color Condition: Green = 3.4 vs. Brown = 3.6; Likeability Ratings in the Label Condition: Milk = 3.9 vs. Dark = 3.9; Likeability Ratings for Color in Color/Label Condition: Green = 3.8 vs. Brown = 4.0; Likeability Ratings for Label in Color/Label Condition: Milk = 3.8 vs. Dark = 4.0.

  4. 4.

    This is consistent with Garber et al.’s (2001) finding that liking is affected by color and label information in a food context where color does signal flavor, even when the flavor information is incorrect. In the present experiment, color did not signal flavor.

References

  1. Auvray M, Spence C (2007) The multisensory perception of flavor. Conscious Cogn 17:1016–1031

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Blackwell L (1995) Visual cues and their effects on odour assessment. Nutr Food Sci 5:24–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cardello A, Sawyer F (1992) Effects of disconfirmed consumer expectations of food acceptability. J Sens Stud 7:253–277

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Chiappe D, MacDonald K (2005) The evolution of domain-general mechanisms in intelligence and learning. J Gen Psychol 132:5–40

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Christensen C (1983) Effects of color on aroma, flavor and texture judgments of foods. J Food Sci 48:787–790

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Clydesdale F (1993) Color as a factor in food choice. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 33:83–101

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Deliza R, MacFie H (1996) The generation of sensory expectation by external cues and its effect on sensory perception and hedonic ratings: A review. J Sens Stud 11:103–128

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Delwiche J (2003) The impact of perceptual interactions on perceived flavor. Food Qual Prefer 15:137–146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Demattè M, Sanabria D, Spence C (2009) Olfactory identification: When does vision matter? Chem Senses 34:103–109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. DuBose C, Cardello A, Maller O (1980) Effects of colorants and flavorants on identification, perceived flavor intensity, and hedonic quality of fruit-flavored beverages and cake. J Food Sci 45:1393–1399

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Duncker K (1939) The influence of past experience upon perceptual properties. Am J Psychol 52:255–265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Garber L, Hyatt E, Starr R (2001) Placing food color experimentation into a valid consumer context. J Food Prod Mark 7:3–24

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Goerlitz C, Delwiche J (2004) Impact of label information on consumer assessment of soy enhanced tomato juice. J Food Sci 69:376–379

    Google Scholar 

  14. Hall R (1958) Flavor study approaches at McCormick and Company, Inc. In: Little AD (ed) Flavor research and food acceptance: A survey of the scope of flavor and associated research, compiled from papers presented in a series of symposia given in 1956-1957. Reinhold, New York, pp 224–240

    Google Scholar 

  15. Johnson J, Clydesdale F (1982) Perceived sweetness and redness in colored sucrose solutions. J Food Sci 47:747–752

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kahkonen P, Tuorila H (1998) Effect of reduced-fat information on expected and actual hedonic and sensory ratings of sausage. Appetite 30:13–23

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Lavin J, Lawless H (1998) Effects of color and odor on judgments of sweetness among children and adults. Food Qual Prefer 9:283–289

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lee L, Frederick S, Ariely D (2006) Try it, you’ll like it. Psychol Sci 17:1054–1058

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Levin I, Gaeth G (1988) How consumers are affected by the framing of attribute information before and after consuming the product. J Consum Res 15:374–378

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Levitan C, Zampini M, Li R, Spence C (2008) Assessing the role of color cues and people’s beliefs about color–flavor associations on the discrimination of the flavor of sugar-coated chocolates. Chem Senses 33:415–423

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Maga J (1974) Influence of color on taste thresholds. Chem Senses Flavor 1:115–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Makens J (1965) Effect of brand preference upon consumers’ perceived taste of turkey. J Appl Psychol 49:261–263

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Moir H (1936) Some observations on the appreciation of flavour in foodstuffs. J Soc Chem Ind 55:145–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Morrot G, Brochet F, Dubourdieu D (2001) The color of odors. Brain Lang 79:309–320

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Olson J, Dover P (1978) Cognitive effects of deceptive advertising. J Mark Res 15:29–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Prescott J (2004) Psychological processes in flavour perception. In: Taylor AJ, Roberts D (eds) Flavor perception. Blackwell Publishing, London, pp 256–277

    Google Scholar 

  27. Sakai N, Imada S, Saito S, Kobayakawa T, Deguchi Y (2005) The effect of visual images on perception of odors. Chem Senses 30:244–245

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Schifferstein H, Kole A, Mojet J (1999) Asymmetry in the disconfirmation of expectations for natural yogurt. Appetite 32:307–329

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Sheen M, Drayton J (1988) Influence of brand label on sensory perception. In: Thomson DMH (ed) Food acceptability. Elsevier Applied Sciences, London, pp 89–99

    Google Scholar 

  30. Spence C (2002) The ICI report on the secret of the senses. The Communication Group, London

    Google Scholar 

  31. Stevenson R, Oaten M (2008) The effect of appropriate and inappropriate stimulus color on odor discrimination. Percept Psychophys 70:640–646

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Triplett T (1994) Consumers show little taste for clear beverages. Mark News 28:2–11

    Google Scholar 

  33. Wansink B, Park S, Sonka S, Morganosky M (2000) How soy labeling influences preference and taste. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review 3:85–94

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Wansink B, van Ittersum K, Painter JE (2005) How descriptive food names bias sensory perceptions in restaurants. Food Qual Prefer 16:393–400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Wardle J, Solomons W (1994) Naughty but nice: A laboratory study of health information and food preferences in a community sample. Health Psychol 13:180–183

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. Wheatley J (1973) Putting colour into marketing. Marketing, October, 24-29, 67

  37. Wolfson J, Oshinsky N (1966) Food names and acceptability. J Advert Res 6:21–23

    Google Scholar 

  38. Yeomans M, Chambers L, Blumenthal H, Blake A (2008) The role of expectancy in sensory and hedonic evaluation: The case of smoked salmon ice-cream. Food Qual Prefer 19:565–573

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Zampini M, Sanabria D, Phillips N, Spence C (2007) The multisensory perception of flavor: Assessing the influence of color cues on flavor discrimination responses. Food Qual Prefer 18:975–984

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maya U. Shankar.

Additional information

Resubmitted to: Chemosensory Perception (March 2009)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shankar, M.U., Levitan, C.A., Prescott, J. et al. The Influence of Color and Label Information on Flavor Perception. Chem. Percept. 2, 53–58 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-009-9046-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Multisensory Integration
  • Color–Flavor Interactions
  • Label–Flavor Interactions
  • Flavor Perception
  • Intersensory Conflict
  • Expectations