The Sensory Perception Of Colour

Pencils lined up according to the colour spectrum.
Image by Monfocus, c/o Pixabay.

Colour is a critical factor in consumer perception and the acceptance of food. The colour of food affects our judgement of that food. It is one of the most important quality attributes along with taste and texture (Burrows, 2009). There is an extremely well known, almost hackneyed phrase amongst chefs which is:-

“You eat with your eyes first”
It means that when food is unappealing, it is most often left uneaten (Delwiche, 2004, 2012). Our sense of sight is usually the first interaction with any food or drink because it allows us to see both colour, size, shape and any other imperfections a food may have. In fact, colour is a major visual factor in the decision process of food consumption (deHamer, 2012). We know from 

Loss of colour through browning and fading is a good indicator to us all of aging, staleness, loss of quality in terms of nutrition and flavour. Quite often colour intensity declines during processing of a food. All food and ingredient producers and manufacturers have sough out ways to address this issue. It involves modifying the processing conditions to minimise loss and  to add both natural and synthetic grade colours as ingredients. Natural pigments from plants are readily used to provide a more vibrant alternative to the synthetic colours which come with toxicity issues although not with all.

There are many sensory techniques available that can be used in the examination of colour.


Burrows, A. (2009). Palette of our palates: A brief history of food coloring and its regulationComprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety8(4), pp. 394408 (Article)

Chan M. and Kane-Martinelli, C. 1997. The effect of colour on perceived flavour intensity and acceptance of foods by young adults and elderly adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 97 pp. 657-658

DeHamer, R. (2012). Personal Preferences through Sensory Evaluation: A Detailed Study of Perception, Association and Difference. In: Introduction to the Science of Food –NUTR 205L
Delwiche, J.F. (2004). The impact of perceptual interactions on perceived flavour. Food Quality and Preference, 15. pp.  13-
Delwiche, J.F. (2012). You eat with your eyes first: A Brief Communication. Physiology and Behavior, 107 pp. 502-504
Oram, N. 1995. The influence of flavour and colour on drink identification by children and adults. Developmental Psychobiology, 28 pp.  239-246.

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