In plant-based protein research, developers have to answer many questions. How do you make plant-based meat taste like meat? How do you achieve the right texture? While these factors are essential to the success of a plant-based meat product, color is also vital for creating an enjoyable product. Finding reliable methods for measuring this color is key.
Measuring Color With Spectrophotometry
During the development process, researchers can measure the color of their product using a spectrophotometer, an instrument that can replicate the human visual response to color.
A spectrophotometer does this by illuminating a sample using a controlled light source that is first passed through a diffraction grating and separated into its component wavelengths. This light then interacts with the sample and the reflected or transmitted light is measured with a detector to quantify the absorbance and transmittance of the sample.
Transmittance is the amount of light that passes completely through a sample, and absorbance is the light absorbed by the sample. The wavelengths that transmit reflect back to the human eye as color. The spectrophotometer converts the transmittance and absorbance into data for reference.
Researchers and development teams experiment with many plant-based burger ingredients to achieve the most impressive vegan meat products. After the development process, how does plant-based meat look real? Development teams rely on methods like color measurement to create the products you see on the shelves.
The process for developing plant-based protein has to consider two identifying visual factors — texture and color.
Understanding the Color of Plant-Based Meat
You may think of visual factors as something highly subjective, especially since plant-based meat replicates something so familiar. But color is the exception. While color seems like a subjective concept, the shades and hues we perceive are based on how much light an object absorbs or transmits.
Spectrophotometers are designed to measure the absorption and transmission of light wavelengths in a given object. When measuring a sample with a spectrophotometer, the device will generate a dataset based on the level of transmission and absorption for each color.
In plant-based protein development, many researchers have uncovered beet powder as an essential ingredient for meat alternatives. This vibrant purple-red substance can create the signifying pink color we often associate with real meat, but it needs to be used strategically. Too much beet powder in meat alternatives may make the plant-based protein hot pink, and too little may lead to an unappetizing gray.
Create Quantitative Color Measurements With Spectrophotometry
Color is a measurable science, even if it seems like a subjective quality. We perceive color based on how much an object transmits and absorbs the wavelengths of light, and we can measure this transmittance and absorbance to quantify color.
Spectrophotometers achieve this measurement with a single light source separated into each individual wavelength. These different wavelengths appear as different colors. Violet light has the highest wavelength frequency, and red has the lowest.
A spectrophotometer will isolate a single wavelength and direct it at a sample. Then, a sensor will measure how much of the light is absorbed and transmitted. The colors an object transmits are the colors we see, so beet powder transmits violet and red. The spectrophotometer will create a dataset of the different wavelengths for users to understand the color makeup of a sample.
Various public surveys have revealed the general opinion of plant-based substitutes for meat. Consumers typically rank these products highly in environmental, health and animal welfare categories. Plant-based consumer demographics generally encompass those who prioritize personal health, animal rights and eco-friendly habits.
However, vegan meat products still rank low in the taste category. Consumers who prefer real meat products prioritize taste over other factors and find most brands lack the ability to recreate the signature taste of real meat. To improve public perception, manufacturers need to develop taste in their plant-based products — one way to do so is through color.
Paper was invented in China, where people began writing on sheets of cloth to keep records. From there, a Chinese court official created a pulp using natural materials and let it dry in a thin mat shape. Paper production has changed over the years to become what we know today. At HunterLab, we are dedicated to helping the paper industry meet color standards and best practices for paper production.
Meeting Color Standards for Paper
White paper may seem like a simple color standard to meet, but getting the right white shade can be challenging when we consider surface properties. While there may be a specific white that all paper manufacturers want to achieve, they must factor how light reflects on different surfaces, from low-gloss matte to high-gloss.
Colors have reflected light and absorbed light, and these measurements affect our perception of the color. Reflected light, however, is not an indicator of the actual color, while absorbed light is. For mid-gloss and high-gloss paper, their shiny surfaces offer a lot of reflected light, and it will skew our perception of the color.
To find the right color, paper manufacturers rely on instruments that offer a quantified measurement for color, rather than counting on the human eye. Machines like spectrophotometers can register the light a surface reflects and absorbs to provide a definitive color measurement. With this method, manufacturers can achieve a consistent white paper in all glosses.
As vegan food becomes more prevalent for environmental reasons, development processes for plant-based protein need to become more advanced. While color will not change the taste of a vegan meat product, it will influence consumer perception, making color consistency vital for these foods.
Why Color Consistency Matters
Color consistency is essential in plant-based protein because it:
- Improves visual appeal: Many senses fuel the eating experience, like taste and texture. Visual appeal is just as important when communicating how enjoyable a food will be. Color consistency for plant-based meats following the right color formula will help to make the product more visually appealing to every buyer.
- Supports product success: Consumers actively use the look of the product to determine if it’s worth purchasing. When a plant-based meat is inconsistent in color, consumers are less likely to trust the product and perceive it as out-of-date or unsafe to eat. Color consistency helps consumers develop a positive perception of the product, making them more willing to purchase it repeatedly.
- Regulates the manufacturing process: Creating standards for end products is essential for streamlining the manufacturing process. When manufacturers know what color they need to achieve for plant-based protein products, they can integrate a consistent process for achieving that color. Greater regulation leads to increased efficiency.
- Streamlines quality control: Manufacturers want to deliver high-quality vegan food products to the shelves, making quality control procedures essential. Color consistency plays a role in quality control — every product should look the same. With consistent processes in place that help to repeat the same product color, quality control processes can operate smoothly.
Color spectrophotometers are used to measure sample color and their specific applications span across all industries — from food to chemicals to plastics. With so many diversified fields, it’s vital that you secure the instrument that delivers the most value for your individualized needs.
A reliable spectrophotometer should have various capabilities and features to produce the most accurate results, no matter the industry. When choosing a color measurement solution for your field, keep the following characteristics in mind to secure a spectrophotometer that’s right for you.
Features for Every Industry
Spectrophotometers are versatile instruments used to measure samples of all types across the following industries:
- Coffee roasting.
- Biomedical optics.
- Processed foods.
- Food additives.
- Chemical analysis.
- Water analysis.
- Paints and coatings.
- Tea fingerprinting.
- Power building products.