Colorful food

The look and visual experience of food has become even more relevant over the last decade due to the trend of sharing videos and pictures of meals online. A key factor in a viewer’s positive sensory experience of food imagery is the use and influence of colors. Colors play an important role in modulating a consumer’s affective expectations. Read on to learn more about the application of food colors and their effects!

How our visual sight influences taste

People’s perception is typically dominated by what their eyes see – “We eat with our eyes.” Eating is a multi-sensory experience and as a rule, we choose our foods so that they not only taste good, but also provide us with the nutrients we need. Colors in particular signal the presence of certain nutrients to our brain. One of the primary functions, or challenges, faced by the brain is to find nutritious foods and to avoid ingesting substances that may be poisonous or otherwise harmful.

Why colors make sense

Visual hunger seems to be part of the reason why various types of food media have become increasingly successful in the digital age. Furthermore, the use of visual images can also encourage healthy eating – it doesn’t have to be seen as something negative.

  • Food colors can support brands in creating “signature products”
  • Colors can give an impression of the quality of the food
  • Consumers also learn to become familiar with certain ingredients

Colors that are present in nature are strongly related to health, vitality and relaxation. A green color will immediately give you a sense of naturalness and wellbeing. Bright colors like red, orange and yellow are particularly used in food advertisements because they are linked to increased appetite and are associated with energy and immunity. The brighter and more vibrant the color is, the more optimism it elicits. 

What do colors taste like?

  • Red-Pink (sweet): Red is present in tomatoes (lycopene) and certain berries (anthocyanins), while violet-red can be seen in beetroot. Some examples of plant-based colors are anthocyanins (black carrot, grape skin, red radish) and carotenoids (paprika, beta-carotenes, annatto), which are responsible for the red color and yellow/orange shades of different plants and flowers and also impart functional properties to them.
  • Green-Yellow (sour): Green colors are present in plants and algae, such as chlorophyll, spinach and spirulina. Yellow is present in turmeric, safflower, beta-carotenes, lutein and lemon extracts.
  • White-Blue (salty): Some anthocyanins can present blue or purple shades, depending on the pH of the application. Spirulina is another plant-based option for obtaining blue.
  • Black-Purple (bitter): Vegetable carbon black imparts a very stable black color in many different applications where it is allowed. 

Demand for natural colors based on plants and fruit extracts is increasing significantly, partly driven by the increased interest in plant-based ingredients. Trends like naturalness, clean label, healthy eating, organic food and sustainability are the key drivers of product innovation. Let’s have a quick overview of the coloring options for food applications.

Types of food colors

Colors can be classified into the following groups:

  • Synthetic colors: Colors produced by chemical synthesis, not found in nature and not chemically derived from a natural source material.
  • Nature-identical colors: Colors identical to a coloring principle that occurs in nature, produced by chemical synthesis.
  • Natural colors: Colors that originate from a wide range of sources like vegetables, fruits, plants, minerals and other edible natural sources. Substances in which the pigments have been selectively extracted.
  • Coloring foodstuffs: Food ingredients manufactured from fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, algae and/or other edible source materials that comply with the EU Guidance Notes on Colouring Foods. These are used by the food industry for the primary purpose of imparting color to food and beverage products.

Some applications are not achievable without the use of synthetic colors. We can offer you a complete range of color options to cover your needs. We are constantly working on extending our product range to provide you with the full setup and best advice.

Important information to define when requesting a color includes:

  • solubility, form (e.g., powder, liquid, granulate),
  • type of color (synthetic, natural, nature-identical, coloring foodstuffs/clean label, organic or other certifications).

Contact us and we will seek out the best color or coloring solution for your product. TER Ingredients will guide you toward finding the right solution for your application.

Dr. Robert von Rönn
Managing Director TER Ingredients GmbH & Co. KG
Tel: +49 40 300 501 8188
E-Mail: r.vonroenn[at]