While a spectrophotometer might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, it is actually a powerful tool that companies across the world use create and control their brand and product colors, ensuring color quality, consistency and efficacy across their product lines. It can tell us if a pharmaceutical is contaminated or if cookies are baked to the optimal brownness for consumer acceptance.
So how does all this happen from a spectrophotometer? And how do we use it? The science behind this tool is powerful and has several applications. To clear things up, we’ve put together some information on how spectrophotometers work and how they contribute to different products and technologies, so let’s dive in.
Color heavily influences how consumers perceive food products. Humans naturally associate color with flavor and quality, assuming how a product will taste based on its appearance.
Like all snack foods, nuts are subject to consumer judgments founded on color. These products require thorough quality control testing to ensure they project the proper quality, appearance, and taste. Color measurement devices deliver objective color assessments, enabling operators to achieve color consistency according to industry standards.
Color measurement and spectrophotometry support the food industry in several ways. Keep reading to learn how important these processes are to this industry and what solutions you can integrate for your food products.
Color measurement plays an important role in nearly every application of every industry. Color variations are a part of human perception, but the ability to clearly identify these differences and establishing color parameters is an important part of a color system that works. Image Source: Flickr user frankieleon
Color measurement may seem pretty straightforward at first glance, but due to the limitations of the human eye, instrumental color measurement tools soon become a necessity for creating consistent and repeatable colors. Color quality plays a huge role in nearly every industry, and setting up a color system based on advanced color measurement instrumentation can make a difference in product quality and appearance. Although setting up a color system may seem tedious and difficult at first, especially with all the bells and whistle of today’s spectrophotometers, with the right support these steps will definitely pay off in the long run. Implementing a color system is not only important for identifying color measurement standards, but clearly defines color tolerances as well, which is the key in creating a system that works.
Spectrophotometric technology allows you to create an effective color system with a method for monitoring that system which can save time and money. A good color system first begins with identifying color variations. These variations or differences are commonly referred to as Delta-E. Delta-E (dE) expresses “the ‘distance’ between two colors” and can be represented in numerical form using color measurement data. A dE value of 1.o represents the smallest measurement of color difference that can be perceived by the human eye. Anything less that dE 1.0 will appear to be the same color no matter who is viewing the sample and is not affected by angle or light source. A dE measurement slightly above 1.0 usually goes unnoticed by the average viewer and can be considered an ‘acceptable’ color difference, but establishing these boundaries with an effective color system is a fundamental element in quality control and production efficiency. This range of acceptability is defined as a color tolerance and is a foundation in establishing an effective color system.
Translucent beverages require different color measurement techniques than transparent beverages. Image credit: Flickr user eddie welker (CC BY 2.0)
One of the great benefits of living in modern society is mass production. If I want a Coke, then it’s understood that the beverage I grab in the grocery store check-out line will taste the same as the hundreds I’ve had over the course of my life. It’s not just the taste, or the appearance of the bottle. The color itself is distinctive.
Color uniformity of beverages is more important than consumers might think. A study on expert and “social” wine drinkers found that when a flavorless red dye is added to a white wine, drinkers report markedly different flavor profiles1. Or consider the fate of “Crystal Pepsi,” widely rejected after its launch in the 1990s—in large part because of its coloration. Consumers had a difficult time enjoying a drink that just didn’t look like cola.
Of course, Coke and Pepsi are not alone in having proprietary looks (and tastes). To keep consumers happy, all soda producers strive to maintain consistency—and this requires strict quality control. Fortunately, spectrophotometers allow you to accurately measure and replicate soda coloration, ensuring worldwide production of consistent beverages. But for the best results, you must select the right spectrophotometer—and the right measurement techniques—for your particular beverage.
Resin samples typically measured in Gardner Color
The APHA/Pt-Co/Hazen and Gardner visual color scales were both originally based on liquid chloroplatinate color standards but have different history and intended use.
Commercial grade peanut butter
The USDA quality system assigns peanut butter quality rating of USDA Grade A, Grade B and Other based on 4 attributes that total 100 points.
Color – 20 points
Consistency – 20 points
Absence of defects – 30 points
Flavor and aroma – 30 points
All four quality characteristics are based on sensory qualification but color can be quantified.
The USDA Peanut Butter Color Standards are a set of 4 plastic chips that serve as visual guides used for defining the color of processed peanut butter defining USDA Grade A (2 to 3 Medium Brown) between too light (1 Light Brown) and too dark USDA Grade B (4 Dark Brown).
USDA Peanut Butter Color Standards
The reference document for these US Peanut Butter Color Standards is:
US Standards for Grades of Peanut Butter – February 5, 1972
Available on internet as a US Federal Standard from USDA/AMS GSA Washington, DC USA www.ams.usda.gov
Information on this method comes from:
Processed Products Branch
Fruit and Vegetable Division, AMS
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20090-6456 USA