Addressing the Challenges of Viscosity and Color Value Measurement in Maple Syrup

viscosity and color measurement methods for maple syrup
Maple syrups can vary in color from batch to batch. Maintaining color quality and consistency is crucial for improving marketability in this competitive industry. Image Source: Flickr user David Black

Maple syrup is a hot commodity in our household…my kids seem to put in on nearly everything. That is why our pantry is stocked with a warehouse-sized container to ensure we never run out. However, not all maple syrups are created equal. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way when one morning my family woke up to piping hot stack of pancakes only to realize that our syrup supply had been depleted. After a desperate plea, my husband ran to the store only to return with a smaller bottle of the same name brand we preferred; yet it had the appearance and consistency of dirty water. My children refused to eat it saying it “just didn’t look right”.

I know that they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but research shows that taste perception and visual appearance go hand in hand.1  In fact, color appearance is the first thing consumers use when choosing a product, so maybe there is more truth to the old adage of “love at first sight”. Truth be told, the less appealing muddy water looking concoction from the smaller store bought bottle really didn’t taste that different, but many consumers pass on foods and beverages simply because they “don’t look right”.

Visual preference is actually an internal warning system our body and minds use to protect us from harmful foods, so it is no wonder our purchasing choices are so dependent on visual appeal. That is why manufacturers invest so much time and energy to ensure that colors stay consistent throughout production and from batch to batch. Of course, food products vary greatly in appearance and require different methods for accurate color analysis.

grading viscosity and color measurement methods for maple syrup
New maple color grading regulations require instrumental analysis for color quality monitoring. Image Source: Flickr user Dany Johnson

Challenges in Maple Syrup Color Assessment

Apparently, my family is not alone in our obsession of this sweet sticky goodness that is derived from the maple tree. Millions of gallons of maple syrup are produced annually in North America and supply the worldwide demand for this product.2  Though confined to North American production, the maple syrup industry is highly competitive with many various brands on the market today. This makes color quality monitoring and instrumental analysis more important than ever.

Referring back to my personal experience above, one may wonder how the same name brand syrup could vary so greatly in appearance and texture. This is a common problem in mass produced food products, where maintaining consistency is crucial to product quality and name brand recognition. In maple syrup production, this can be exceptionally challenging due to the many factors that arise throughout production.

Since maple syrups originate from the sap of the maple tree and can vary is sugar content, color also varies depending on how these caramelize during production. That is why it is important to monitor color quality throughout this process to ensure accurate and consistent color outcomes. Spectrophotometers with process automation capabilities allow for in-line process monitoring throughout each stage of production and alert potential color errors. This saves both time and resources, allowing production facilities to make changes in real time and assess color errors at the source.

pancake viscosity and color measurement methods for maple syrup
When choosing color measurement instrumentation, it is important to choose a product that is adaptable to various sample types and offers a high level of accuracy. Image Source: Flickr user Laurence

Addressing the Challenges of Viscosity in Sample Measurement

Final product color assessment is also essential to maintaining product quality and consistency. With maple syrup production, caramelization is not the only factor that affects the color outcome. Viscosity also interferes with color perception and can create challenges in accurate sample measurement. Since maple syrup often varies in viscosity, it is important to choose a color measurement tool that addresses these concerns.

UV/VIS spectrophotometers are ideal for measuring both liquid and solid color samples. “With a large photometric range…sample dilution is not required for highly absorbing samples such as maple syrup.”3 Using the proper liquid sample holder and developing an average sample reading is a priority when measuring high viscosity sticky substances. HunterLab spectrophotometers offer this and the ability to adapt to larger surface area measurements, making them a versatile tools for the maple syrup industry.

The HunterLab Difference

HunterLab is a leader in color technology and spectrophotometric instrumentation. With over 6o years of experience in color measurement, we have the foundation and knowledge to address any color measurement need or challenge. We pride ourselves on our customer relations and work hard to form partnerships with our clients in order to develop the highest quality products available. Contact us to find out why top industry leaders choose HunterLab for all their color measurement needs.

  1. “What You See is What You Taste”, April 12. 2013,
  2. “Top Regions Producers of Maple Syrup”, 2012,
  3. “Maple Syrup Color Analysis Using UV/VIS Spectrophotometry”, November 24, 2015,

New Variations in Hard Apple Cider Color Create Competition for Craft Beers

glass of hard apple cider color
Microbreweries are expanding their beverage selections by offering a more colorful assortment of hard ciders to increase consumer choice. Image Source: Flickr’ user Brent Hofacker

Microbreweries are all the rage these days with franchises opening up in quaint little towns across the country. Here in the Pacific NW, you will see crowds of people swarming to grab a quick bite to eat and a cold refreshment on their way home from work or with a group of friends on weekends. These new little off-the-wall establishments have taken the place of local watering holes by offering a classy way to unwind at the end of the day. So why this sudden increase of obsession in microbrew venues?

As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life” and to pique the interest of the masses, new trends in adult beverages have found creative ways to make this a reality. What differentiates the bar scene from the beer and wine bistro atmosphere is the absence of hard alcohol. While this encourages a more casual and laid back drinker, many craft breweries have been limited to a simple variety of beers alone. I’m a beer lover myself, and while the urban-rustic vibe may be enticing, many of my girlfriends and even their ‘gluten free’ counterparts would turn their noses up at those hoppy beer choices. It didn’t take microbreweries long to catch on too. By incorporating a new line of hard ciders; they found ways to appease the masses and offer a more colorful assortment of adult beverages.

hard apple cider color varieties
Hard apple ciders are available in a variety of color and flavor choices. This new adult beverage assortment has now taken the place of many alternative cocktail options to appease a wider variety of consumers. Image Source: Flickr’ user CampusCircleMedia

Additional Color Choices Attract New Consumers

Color plays a significant role in consumer choice, and hard apple cider color is no exception. In fact, this fruit-based refreshment offers more flexibility in color choices than both beer and wine combined. Since the base color in hard apple cider is the starting point for many new flavors and color options, thanks to its light color and crisp fresh taste, adding other ingredients to this formula is a simple and easy way to increase the variety of adult cider options.

Hard apple cider color alone is the base of many name brand hard cider beer labels. Popular choices such as “Gold Apple Hard Cider” by Strongbow brewing company or Woodchuck Brewing’s signature craft flavor “Woodchuck Amber”1 use color terminology in their labels to encourage visual preference and appeal. Of course, visualization through brand name alone is not enough to solidify color acceptance and recognition. Actual beverage color itself is what inevitably entices consumers and provides the basis for taste perception. In fact, taste perception and color are so strongly related that many leading beverage producers rely on instrumental analysis of color to ensure brand name success.

bottled hard apple cider color
Hard apple cider color plays a significant role in consumer appeal and many industry leaders are even using color imagery in their brand name labeling to attract more buyers. Image Source: Flickr’ user Jeff Paulino

Analysis of Hard Apple Cider Color

Hard apple cider color varies dramatically due to a variety of changes that occur throughout processing. From the color and variety of apples used as raw ingredients to the color changes caused throughout fermentation and processing, monitoring color quality through production is essential for creating a favorable color outcome.

Competitive hard cider corporations understand that quality ingredients are the first step in producing marketable beverages. Raw ingredients are carefully inspected and analyzed for color quality using advanced spectral technologies. Spectrophotometers are a preferred choice in color analysis due to their high level of accuracy and ease of use. The simplicity of design allows for quick and reliable data measurement, which can be stored and used to develop a color standard for quality ingredients. Many spectrophotometers also offer the versatility to measure changes throughout production, especially as consistency and clarity shift throughout the fermentation process. Additives are another way cider manufacturers alter the color or prevent darkening2. Therefore, the color must be carefully monitored during throughout steps to ensure consistency and desired results.

The Best Methods for Beverage Color Measurement

Spectrophotometers are a preferred tool for the color assessment of commercial beverages. As hard apple cider production continues to increase and the market grows, color assessment becomes more important than ever for cultivating consumer acceptance. Choosing the right instrumentation and knowing how to use it it’s the first step toward improving product quality and color consistency.

Like many beverages, hard ciders are produced in a wide array of colors and consistencies. From transparent to more translucent and/or cloudy in appearance, each sample requires different instrumentation and measurement techniques based upon these various attributes.

  • Transparent Liquids—Beverages with very low or zero solid content allow light to pass through with minimal or no interference. Without reflection of light, these samples can only be measured accurately with transmission instrumentation.
  • Translucent Liquids—Liquids with medium solid content diffuse light as it passes through the sample. Using both reflective and transmittance measurement modes is appropriate depending on the translucency of the sample. Defining the appropriate path length depends on consumer perception, which can be determined by the thickness of the sample and where light enters and exits.

At HunterLab, we specialize in the color measurement of liquid samples. That is why many leading beverage companies have come to trust our instrumentation for all their color measurement needs. We offer the support, knowledge, and experience needed to help you stay competitive in the growing market of crafted hard ciders. To learn more about our products and what we have to offer, contact us today.

  1. “Top 10 Best Hard Apple Cider Beer Brands Better Than Craft Beers”,
  2. “ How to make cider – College of Agriculture and Natural Resources”, 2002,

Using a Spectrophotometer to Improve Color Quality and Performance of Offset Inks

ink color measurement
Offset ink analysis is essential for top quality products and performance in today’s high-speed production printing industry. Image Source: Flickr’ user Remy CARTERET

Today’s printing industry is booming and production rates are reaching record level speeds as offset printers race to match supply with demand. Much like the benefits of high-octane fuel in a fast little sports car, press operators rely on high-performance ink quality to reach top speeds and maintain customer satisfaction.

Instrumental analysis is an important element in laboratory ink production and necessary for predicting various performance outcomes. Variables such as high-level press speeds and the many variations in substrates used in today’s commercial labels and packaging all create challenges in offset ink performance. According to Ink World Magazine, “assessing printing characteristics is critical to determining how ink is likely to perform, and having standard equipment is essential. Without these instruments or procedures, an ink company would have a difficult time ensuring its products perform on press. In addition, an excellent ink laboratory can help when troubleshooting is required”1. Developing standards and procedures for ink specifications and quality starts with advanced instrumentation. Spectrophotometers offer a variety of analytical options to ensure accurate color matching and consistency. One small yet effective tool can accomplish a variety of tasks and is a must for any ink laboratory.

spectrophotometer offset ink
Analysis of ink concentration levels effects production quality and performance and is necessary for maintaining quality control. Image Source: Flickr’ user Remy CARTERET

Monitoring Color Quality

Using a spectrophotometer to develop a color quality system is one of the simplest ways to ensure better ink performance. Many variables can affect color perception and alter the outcome of ink color and appearance. Spectral analysis measures even the slightest variations in color that go undetected by the human eye. This reduces errors and guarantees color matches. Spectrophotometers are also able to record and store data as a reference to ensure consistency across batches. From ink distribution facilities, to in house ink laboratory systems, this data saves valuable time and resources.  The ability to quantify this information for recurrent use minimizes errors and allows for simple adjustments to improve performance and increase product yield.

Changes in lighting conditions can also alter color perception, leading to inconsistencies in ink color formulation. Advanced instrumentation provides an isolated light source to ensure accurate measurements. These measurements can then be used to monitor various performance changes throughout processing and bring attention to any possible contamination, allowing for changes to be made if necessary.  Determination of performance results and ink formulation changes can all be regulated and modified with effective color quality control.

black ink using a spectrophotometer to find concentration
Variations in offset inks can create challenges in performance. Spectral technology helps to monitor these changes for consistency, quality, and repeatability. Image Source: Flickr’ user Remy CARTERET

Specialized Ink Analysis

Offset inks are required for use in a variety of industrial applications and vary based on specific industry needs. From food production to chemical formulations, external variables often affect ink performance and appearance. Understanding these changes and how to monitor these variables is necessary for improved ink production and quality.

Monitoring color strength relies on spectrophotometric technology to compare standardized colors. Bleach or tint testing applications utilize this technology to monitor pigmentation dispersion and ensure accurate color matching results. Since the human eye alone is subject to variations in perception, this process is necessary for reducing costly errors and other challenges is  color matching. Quality ink formulations depend on advanced spectrophotometric data to guarantee repeatability and color quality.

Manufacturers pay top dollar for products that are reliable and perform in the ways intended. Therefore, the use of advanced instrumentation in ink production laboratories is essential for developing high quality ink products.

The Right Instrumentation With the Support You Need

Setting up an ink analysis system is not confined to laboratory ink facilities alone. Ink technicians, production operators, and final quality inspectors can all benefit from the use of instrumental analysis. With materials and printing conditional continually changing, repeated analysis and changes are required to effectively utilize materials and maintain quality. A spectrophotometer is a versatile tool that offers simple and effective analysis throughout all stages of offset ink production and printing. However, not all spectrophotometers are created equal.

At HunterLab we strive to develop color measurement tools that are specifically designed to address industry needs. By working closely with industry leaders, we have developed spectrophotometers that are designed to address the challenges that arise in an ever changing and developing market. Not only do we create our tools with this in mind, but we also offer the support needed to utilize our instrumentation to its full potential. Making an investment in advanced instrumentation can save both time and money and is an economical choice in this fast-paced and highly competitive market. To learn more about HunterLab spectrophotometers and their advantages in offset printing, contact us today.

Spectrophotometers for Monitoring Shelf Life of Hamburger Meat Improves Marketability

monitoring shelf life of hamburger meat cooked patty
Quality hamburgers start with fresh ground beef, which many consumers measure by the color quality of the raw meat. Image Source: Flickr’ user bour3

Hamburgers are the All-American food and nothing screams summer like the smell of sizzling ground beef on a backyard grill. This summertime tradition has been around for ages and hamburger was once the staple food in the American household. I remember when I was growing up, my mom put hamburger in everything. From the ever-popular varieties of family casseroles to the excitement of the huge metal mixing bowl filled to the brim with ground beef, just waiting for the influx of guest to arrive. Old friends of mine still refer to my mom’s ‘famous hamburgers’ that she would meticulously mix by hand and form into the perfect patty.

While my mom adored her ground beef, she was also quite picky about the quality of meat she chose. We always bought our hamburger meat fresh from the butcher and my mom would carefully inspect the color before purchasing. “Always choose the freshest meat for the best burgers”, she would say, as the butcher would hold up a bright pink handful in his gloved hands. As an adult, I now consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of quality hamburgers and have developed some new favorite recipes that challenge even the best burger joints in town.

monitoring shelf life of hamburger meat raw
Myoglobin is the protein found in ground beef that gives it its red coloring and is recognized as a sign of meat quality and freshness. Image Source: Flickr’ user Artizone

Fresh Ground Beef Color

If you were to walk up to the meat counter at your local supermarket, you would expect to see a fresh assortment of bright red meats. Colors of brown or gray might indicate to spoilage or that the meat has been sitting on the shelf a bit too long. But where do we get the notion that color relates to these traits? Color perception is actually an instinctual quality built into our DNA that protects our bodies from consuming potentially dangerous foods1. Like the bright colors of the poison dart frog that warns its prey not to eat, discolored meat products work the same within the internal safety coding systems of our brain.

We expect bright red coloring when it comes to ground beef, so monitoring the source of color is an important step in the quality control of meat products. Myoglobin is the protein found in ground beef that produces this bright red color we’ve come to expect2. This protein does not occur from blood circulating through the meat, but it is actually present in the muscle itself, fixated within the tissues. Spectrophotometers measure myoglobin using a color scale that quantifies even the slightest variation in red coloring. This information then provides important data, which can be used to predict color quality and shelf life expectancy in ground beef.

Spectrophotometers are a valuable tool for monitoring shelf life of hamburger meat during processing as well as after packaging. Color measurement instrumentation offers the versatility needed for continuous monitoring and quantification of changes that occur in ground beef color, which affect product quality and profit. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) receives numerous calls on a daily basis from consumers concerned about the color of meat products. In fact, “nearly 15% of retail beef is discounted in price due to surface discoloration, which corresponds to annual revenue losses of $1 billion”3. That is why many major beef producers rely on state-of-the-art color technology to consistently monitor changes that occur in muscle foods after slaughter. Color stability greatly influences marketability making the knowledge of myoglobin chemistry and color measurement technology necessary for economic stability within this industry.

monitoring shelf life of hamburger meat frozen
Color stability of frozen hamburger meat is an indication of quality and shows that beef was processed and packaged at the peak of freshness. Image Source: Flickr’ user stu_spivack

Monitoring Frozen Ground Beef Quality

While my mother always relied on butcher fresh ground beef, I must admit that I have grown accustomed to stocking my freezer with the frozen tube style hamburger patties that can be ready on a moments notice. Since many our summertime BBQs are impromptu and consist of my teenage boys and a handful of their friends, quality and convenience (plus a large number of patties to accommodate the appetite of growing boys) are my main priority. However, that does not mean that I am willing to skimp on quality.

Not all frozen hamburger patties are created equal and once again, color is a strong indicator of quality in frozen meats. Color stability can also diminish in sub zero temperatures, though at a much slower rate. Therefore it is important that meat is packaged and frozen at the peak of freshness to preserve color quality. Since changes in meat color involve the concentration of myoglobin and its response to oxidization, it is important to monitor color throughout production as effects on color can vary throughout processing, packaging, and storage. These changes are highly sensitive and require objective color assessment and continuous monitoring to ensure that optimal product color is maintained.

Spectrophotometers effectively measure color by emulating human eye functioning while controlling the viewing angle and light source. Isolating these variables reduces errors in perception and enables consistent quantification of color. Continual color assessment monitors real-time changes to help avoid loss of quality and can alert producers to possible product contamination.

The Right Choice in Color Measurement

Whether fresh or processed, refrigerated or frozen, ground beef requires objective color analysis to ensure that guidelines are followed and quality is guaranteed. HunterLab is a leading name is spectrophotometric technology and was the first to receive USDA approval for the evaluation of food color.

Major beef producers depend on HunterLab instrumentation to meet their color analysis needs. From large production plant monitoring to research and testing methods for creating better products, HunterLab spectrophotometers are specifically designed for use in the agricultural and meat production industries. Choices in spectrophotometers can vary, but in order to ensure quality and accurate data for meat color analysis, beef producers must select reliable technology. HunterLab’s line of color measurement tools and spectrophotometers are designed specifically to meet industry needs. We work closely with leaders in meat science research and are continually developing products to help industries remain competitive. Contact HunterLab today to learn more.


Color Measurement in Agriculture Improves Apple Fruit Red Coloring

red apple color measurement in agriculture
Experienced growers have created a foolproof system of developing maximum color appeal without jeopardizing fruit quality. These systems depend on color measurement instrumentation to ensure favorable results. Image Source: Flickr’ user Henry Hemming

Summer is my favorite time of year because it means spending time outdoors in one of my favorite places…the garden. Despite my love of gardening, I am still just a novice and have much to learn about producing a bountiful harvest. Several years ago I added some apple trees to the corner of my yard and after patiently waiting for them to mature, I can now reap the benefits. Unfortunately my crop has yet to compare with the store bought version that is bright in color, yet crisp and juicy. In order to achieve that nice red hue, I must leave my apples on the tree till they nearly drop. Unfortunately that results in fruit is soft and gritty. If I pick them early I can enjoy the fresh juicy flavor, but my eyes just can’t get past that unappealing dull yellowish tone.

Commercial apple growers know that color plays and important role in consumer appeal and strive for that bright red color to entice the buyer. But how do they reach the maximum hue of red without compromising fruit quality? Well many agricultural scientists have spent countless hours perfecting this trick. From experimenting with nitrogen sprays and supplements to new procedures that utilize reflective plastics, the results can vary significantly. That is why many experienced growers utilize color measurement in agriculture and understand how instrumental analysis can improve fruit color and ripeness.

Using Color Analysis to Compare Production Methods

Red is the most preferred color of apple among consumers and outer peel appearance is the main trait used to influence purchases1. Apple peel color varies based on growing conditions and geographical locations and therefore must be closely monitored when comparing various production methods. The most predominant factor that contributes to red pigmentation is both light and temperature, which greatly affect the saturation of color in apple skin. The concentration of red peel color relates directly to anthocyanin production, which depends solely on light intensity and quality. Temperature also affects anthocyanin production and fluctuates, with high temperature reducing concentration and low temperatures increasing these levels2.

fugi apples color measurement in agriculture
Many factors can influence color development and fruit quality. Spectrophotometers provide a systematic approach to improving fruit quality and color. Image Source: Flickr’ user moonjazz

There are several methods used to increase anthocyanin production and improve red color development in red-fruited cultivars. These methods include bagging, plastic film light reflection, fruit thinning, and extensive pruning for improved light penetration. Growers choose each method based on color maturation results to ensure premium crop quality. These results can be monitored using color measurement technology. Spectrophotometers are a common tool used in agricultural sciences due to their durability and ease of use. Processes can be assessed and data can be documented easily as growing conditions are modified and changed. This data can then be used to determine the best methods for optimal color development.

Using Spectrophotometers in Cultivation

Much advancement in spectrophotometric technology has been made to improve fruit cultivation over the past several decades, and new technology continues to influence market competition. Today’s units are designed to withstand the rugged conditions of field use without compromising accuracy. From hand held units to process automation technology, spectrophotometers have become an essential tool for growers around the world.

Each unit is used to measure external color in the NIR (near-infrared region) and provides data about fruit maturity and color development. This method is much more accurate than visual analysis and provides a data system that allows for maximum color maturity without compromising fruit quality. Spectrophotometric analysis is non-destructive, making a preferred system used by grower to improve visual quality without wasted product. By monitoring the ripeness externally, fruit cultivators can develop ideal harvesting times and increase harvest yield.

yellow-red apples color measurement in agriculture
Spectrophotometers use NIR light technology to closely monitor fruit development and quality, ensuring peak maturation and increased marketability. Image Source: Flickr’ Regina Chavez

Spectrophotometers can also be utilized beyond harvesting for quality inspection, online processing, packaging, and shipping to ensure that fruits reach the consumer at the ideal stage of ripeness for increased marketability. This system is also used to monitor premature degradation of fruit using a calculated color maturity scale for optimal fruit quality.

Spectrophotometers Designed for Agricultural Applications

Not all spectrophotometers are created equal. When making an investment in color technology, it is important to choose a product with industry specific design elements. HunterLab is a leading name in spectrophotometric technologies and has numerous product options that have been developed specifically for use in the agricultural industry. We have worked with top agricultural developers to design innovative tools that meet the high demand of this industry. To learn more about HunterLab spectrophotometers and new applications of color measurement in agricultural, contact us today.

  1. “Red Color Development in Apple Fruit”, November 7, 2012,
  2. “Effect of Temperature on Anthocyanin Synthesis and Ethylene Production in the Fruit of Early- and Medium-maturing Apple Cultivars during Ripening Stages”, May, 2003,

Using Spectrophotometers to Meet the Color Standard for Canned Tomatoes

In the chaos of working and raising a family, my husband and I often interact more like business partners than a married couple. Thankfully, last Sunday my husband and I escaped for a much needed ‘date night’ to reconnect and take a break from the daily routines of who was grabbing what from the store or taking a turn on carpool that night. For weeks I had been planning our dinner date and was excited to try a new Italian restaurant that opened in town. The ambiance and charm reflect an Old World feel and the candlelit tables were a definite plus, but the true test for Italian cuisine for me is in the sauce.

sauce color standard for canned tomatoes
Processed tomatoes products are judges based on their color quality and texture. Superior products maintain color quality throughout the canning process. Image Source: Flickr’ user Michael Mandarano

Genuine Italian food is known for its rich tomato-based sauces and homemade flavors, so I could not wait to taste and compare what this quaint little hole-in-the-wall had to offer. I was not disappointed! I always order ‘extra’ marinara sauce on the side to judge for quality and genuineness. When the vibrant red sauce appeared, the visual appeal did not disappoint. Appearance is one of the first criteria I use to base my opinion and just one taste had me sold!

Fresh tomato color and flavor are the keys to quality sauce, when paired with the right texture and flavor it is almost like a little taste of Italy right there on your fork. Although the restaurant owner would not share his secret recipe, he did provide a little tip that took me by surprise. He said that one of his tricks was choosing quality tomatoes…in a can! Did I hear that correctly? That bright red burst of flavor was just screaming ‘fresh tomatoes’, so of course I had to ask for the brand name. Now I can’t wait to try out my own recipe and perhaps fool some guests of my own with a canned version of ‘homemade’.

Starting with Raw Color Measurement

Superior canned tomato products start with a high standard of raw ingredients. Color is the main factor for determining quality in raw tomatoes and can be attributed to the presence of lycopene, which gives tomatoes their vibrant red color1. Lycopene is measured based on a color rating scale that utilizes instrumental analysis to create a colorimetric scoring system. Spectrophotometers are used to qualify color and create the measurements needed to relate product quality to a grading scale. This colorimetric scoring system has been developed through extensive research and analysis of tomato products at various stages of production to ensure color consistency and maturity. Advanced color measurement methods have revolutionized the tomato industry and lead to higher standards in all tomato-based products.

fresh color standard for canned tomatoes
Raw color measurements are often used to predict final color outcomes in canned tomato products. Image Source: Flickr’ user Yusaku Mizuno

There have been various changes in the color measurement of tomato products over the years. Prior to 1972, all color acceptability ratings of raw tomato products were determined visually through the use of color discs to compare an acceptable minimum color standard. The USDA has now developed a new standard of measurement, with color tiles replacing the colored disc as the standard measurement tool. These tiles can also be used to classify tomato color for grade development visually, but variations in individual color perception and the amount of time consumed by this process has now made this process nearly obsolete.

Tomato Grading and Color Analysis

 Like many agricultural products, canned tomatoes are subject to a grading system, which is regulated by USDA standards. Meeting specific criteria for these standards requires the use of instrumental analysis for color determination and variations in product appearance. “Minimum Red” for canned tomatoes is the minimum color acceptable for U.S. Grade C2. Determination of minimum red color is based on a comparison of the blended tomato mixture with the Munsell color system for tomato products to ensure color quality. Spectrophotometers quantify color numerically for the most accurate and efficient system of comparison.

color standard for canned tomatoes
Color consistency is important in canned tomato products and influences consumer acceptance and brand name recognition. Image Source: Flickr’ user David Rowan

Addressing Challenges in Tomato Color Measurement

Color is such a strong indicator of product quality that 30 of the 100 points awarded to the product is solely attributed to color alone. However, color measurement does present its challenges and can vary throughout the different stages of development and processing. Today’s color grading system relies on spectrophotometric technology to gather consistent and accurate data efficiently. To meet the color standard for canned tomatoes requires technology that minimizes human judgment. Spectrophotometers eliminate the margin of human error and quantify results in accordance with USDA standards for tomato product grading.

Objective color measurement technology that aligns with the food industry standards and provides efficient and easy to use instrumentation is necessary for staying competitive in this growing industry. HunterLab spectrophotometers are designed to minimize variables and provide standardized measurements that correlate with tomato-based product standards. Our color measurement tools have been specifically created to simplify the process by using pre-calibrated standardized tiles that match industry grade regulations. We are committed to working closely with the USDA and industry regulations through the development of high level of equipment, and can meet the needs of changing market standards. Visit HunterLab today to find out more about the line of products we provide for exceptional tomato color analysis.

  1. “Color Quality of Tomato Products”, 2008,
  2. “Canned Tomatoes (Including Stewed Tomatoes) Grading Manual”, April 1990,

Spectrophotometers Ensure Consistency of Color Additives in Candy

Have you ever ventured up to that country north of the border? In Canada most of the food is the same as it is in the US, with Smarties being on exception. Americans associate that name with a sugary candy, whereas Canadians recognize it is as a candy coated chocolate, similar to M&M’s. M&Ms are available in Canada as well, so how are they able to successfully co-exist with such a similar product?

Visual appeal means more than just pleasing to the eye. Aside from flavor, consumer choice depends greatly on visual acceptance.1. While Smarties are similar in concept to M&M’s their paler, more pastel like colors, appeal to a different customer base.   
It isn’t just the color itself that matters, but its intensity plays a key role in attracting a certain set of customers. That’s why color consistency is integral for maintaining a loyal customer base.  Advanced color measurement tools is the simplest way to streamline this process while avoiding costly errors and wasted resources.

m&m color additives subject to batch certification
M&M’s are known for their distinct colors and brightness. Image Source: Flickr’ user frankieleon

Spectrophotometers and Batch Certification

Spectrophotometers are the preferred tool used to monitor the consistency of color additives. This instrumentation uses reflectance spectrophotometry to make quantitative color measurements. Certain instruments come with software that will store color standards and automatically identify whether the measured values are acceptable. This helps guarantee color repeatability and consistency from batch to batch.

food dye color additives subject to batch certification
Color intensity plays a huge role in consumer loyalty. Image Source: Flickr’ user klubbers

Sample Preparation and Advanced Applications of Spectral Technology            

Sample preparation is one of the most important factors for maintaining color consistency. To promote success, samples should be made as ideal as possible before a color measurement sample analysis is taken2.

red batter color additives subject to batch certification
Sample preparation and uniformity play an important role in accurate color measurement. Image Source: Flickr’ user Barbara Samuel

When selecting a sample from a batch, it is important to randomly select and examine the sample to confirm that it meets the requirements mentioned above. These samples should represent the overall appearance of the material that is subject to certification. Any spoiled or damaged product could result in non-conformity and fail to meet the specifications required. Continual monitoring of product formulation and changes made will require advanced color measurement instrumentation. Repeated measurements are needed to create a color sample average and ensure that products meet the regulatory standard requirements.

Advance spectrophotometers are designed to account for changes in appearance and can be calibrated to reduce errors from surface texture changes as well as changes in absorption and reflectance values. Sample type plays a significant role in the instrumentation needed. Understanding your sample type and the geometric principles best suited for that sample type are important to know when selecting the right color measurement tools needed for certification.

The Right Choice in Instrumentation

HunterLab is a leader in spectrophotometry and color technology. In our 60+ years of experience in color measurement, we have worked with industry leaders to design and develop instrumentation that meets to specific needs of all sample types. Our customer service members work with you to help select the right instrumentation needed to provide the most accurate results. Whether seeking approval for color additives subject to batch certification or monitoring product formulation and manufacturing for quality control, HunterLab has a tool that is right for you. Contact us today to learn more about the many options available and see why more industry leaders choose HunterLab to meet all their color measurement needs.


  1. ”Flavour: On the Psychological Impact of Food Colour”, April 22, 2015,
  2. “ Selecting Representative Samples for Color Measurement”, December 31, 2015,

Improving Food Dye Analysis in Commercial Products with Spectrophotometry

Sitting at the kitchen table and trying to help my nine-year-old son to work through long division is like watching a squirrel trying to run from a pack of wild dogs. Continually wiggling and focusing anywhere but on his paper, it’s a wonder that he doesn’t slide right off the chair without being duct-taped to it (yes, the thought has crossed my mind). As a responsible parent, I began looking for anything that might be contributing to his lack of focus and never ending energy-supply. At the top of the list were numerous articles that investigated food dye analysis in commercial products for clues as to how excessive coloring additives can greatly impact a child’s behavior. I immediately went to my food pantry to identify any hidden culprits.

food dye analysis in commercial products liquids Food dye analysis plays an important role in food production quality and safety. Understanding the parameters of both natural and synthetic dyes is an important step in commercial food product development. Image Source: Flickr’ University of Exeter

The truth is that food color additives are a common ingredient in most processed foods. Despite “increasing evidence in recent years indicates that the abuse of dyes may cause adverse effects, many kinds of dyes are still widely used due to their low price, high effectiveness, and excellent stability. Therefore, determination of food dyes is important to quality control and control the amount of use permitted”1.  Many commercial food manufacturers rely heavily on colorants and dyes to improve the appearance of their products. Industry leaders know that color can greatly influence both taste perception and consumer acceptability, so color additives take precedence when it comes to product formulation and overall quality. Monitoring the color intensity of food additives is one of the most important factors in the overall appearance of a food product, yet they must be carefully monitored in order to meet safety standards and regulations. Spectrophotometers are widely used for food dye analysis in commercial products due to the efficient and accurate measurements they provide and the ability to store this data for careful monitoring and repeatability.

Measurement and Comparison of Natural and Artificial Food Dyes

Food product formulations often include natural or artificial coloring and careful monitoring of these additives is necessary to achieve desired results as well as meet industry standards. Spectrophotometers provide the ability to accurately measure their color intensity and quantify this information for repeatability. Using the latest technology ensures that food products maintain the same color intensity that the consumer has come to expect.

blue food dye analysis in commerical products
Spectrophotometric technology not only quantifies food color additives, but can also store this data for product formulation and repeatability. Image Source: frankieleon

Whether using synthetic or natural dyes. All food color additives are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)2.  These regulations divide color additives into two categories: certified and exempt from certification, or as many in the foods industry refer to as “artificial” and “natural” colorants. The artificial colorants consist of lakes and dyes that are identified by the FD&C number classification system. These artificial additives undergo strict compliance and safety regulations, and they are systematically reviewed for safety. In fact, FD &C red #3 was actually removed from the list of safe artificial food colorants in 1990, when it was officially classified as a carcinogen3.

Many manufacturers are making the change from artificial to natural food color additives, but with these changes comes new challenges in meeting consumer color expectations. Although many consumers are demanding natural alternatives, color quality is still the driving force behind commercial food product marketability.  As new color formulations arise, it will require FDA approval regardless of how it is derived. Instrumental analysis is not only important for meeting the FDA regulations on color additives, but it is essential in ensuring that color standards continue to meet consumer expectations. The ability to maintain the color intensity of our food choices without the use of synthetic dyes requires the use of instrumental analysis to meet consumer demands.

The Right Tool for the Job

Color measurement instrumentation already plays an important role in food production and food dye analysis in commercial products. Many regulatory agencies use spectrophotometry to ensure safety and quality in our food products. Spectrophotometers are highly accurate, affordable and take the guess work out of food production and manufacturing. Making the most of your color measurement instrumentation requires an understanding of the various options available, and how they pertain to each specific industry need. For example, baked goods often utilize caramel color additives and require non-uniform sample measurement to achieve desired results. Non-contact measurement and specified color measurement geometries can reduce errors and ensure uniformity from batch to batch. Beverage products also have unique measurement needs that pertain to liquid color measurement, whereas solid food products require a completely different approach to accurate color measurement.

colored bottles food dye analysis in commercial products
Many commercial products rely on spectral technology to achieve desired color results as well as meet industry standards and regulations. Image Source: Flickr’ user Sheila Scarborough

Providing the right technology with the support needed to utilize instrumentation to its full capability is what set manufacturers apart from the competition. At HunterLab we offer the best of both worlds. Our expert staff has worked with many of the world’s leading commercial food producers to develop color measurement instrumentation that is designed to meet the specific needs and challenges of each industry. We offer unsurpassed customer service and support to help you make the most of your spectrophotometers. For more information on our product options or to learn more about food dye analysis in commercial products, please contact us today.

  1. “Journal of Food and Drug Analysis”, September 2015,
  2. ”Color Additives”, 12/13/2014,
  3. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks, June 1, 2010,

Spectrophotometers and the Color Standards Reference Chart for Potato Chip Analysis

Potato chips might just be the greatest mistake that ever happened to the culinary world. Although the origin of this snack food phenomenon is still disputed today1, potato chip popularity continues to grow throughout the processed food industry. Today’s choices include a multitude of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. However, they all begin with the same basic process of taking raw potatoes and transforming them into the perfect bite-sized snack. Staying competitive in this growing market requires objective analysis to ensure both the color consistency and quality that consumers demand.  Spectrophotometers are the leading tool used to monitor the color standards reference chart for potato chip analysis and improve production quality in today’s competitive market.

Color Standards Reference Chart for Potato Chip
The color standards reference chart for potato chip analysis is used to monitor and control variations and meet consumer expectations. Image Source: Flickr’ user Molly Mason

Using Instrumental Analysis to Monitor Potato Color

The color standards reference chart for potato chip analysis is designed for the visual analysis of potato color, but visual analysis is not always accurate2. Human perception varies from viewer to viewer and is highly subjective, leading to variations and inconsistencies. On the other hand, instrumental analysis provides the subjective data needed to monitor potato color and can be calibrated to match the color standards reference chart for potato chip measurement. This method of analysis has been implemented by many of the world’s leading snack food manufacturers, who rely on consistency and data to maintain quality and consumer recognition.

Spectrophotometers offer the most advanced method for the color analysis of potatoes. They are both simple to use and highly accurate. This method has been used for many years to monitor both the color of raw potatoes and changes in color during the roasting or frying processes. Measuring color changes and providing subjective data relies on the basic principles of color technology, yet the instrumentation itself has undergone many changes over the years. Advancements in spectrophotometric technology have led to new design elements that meet the specific needs and challenges of the potato chip industry.

Raw Color Standards Reference Chart for Potato Chip
Spectrophotometers offer the most effective way to monitor color changes in both raw potatoes and throughout the potato chip frying process. Image Source: Flickr’ user Ted Murphy

 New Technology Meets the Challenges of Potato Chip Analysis

For many years’ spectral technology provided a simple method for collecting color data, yet variations in potato chip size and texture often interfered with accurate color measurement. Leaders in color technology have worked alongside the top manufacturers to develop new techniques and methods to address these challenges. Controlling both the light source and the viewing angle reduced errors and variations from these external variables, creating a solid base for accurate data. The sample viewed area of most spectrophotometers is smaller than the sample being evaluated. To ensure consistent measurements independent of sample size a color averaging system was developed. For precise color monitoring, software is designed to collect and average numerous readings for various samples. This helps reduce variations and ensure color consistency throughout processing.


As technology continues to improve, spectrophotometers are becoming smaller and more durable in order to meet the needs of mass production. Color process automation technology was developed to offer real-time color data and increase production speed without compromising quality. This technology improves color control and process monitoring. More so, data can be measured and stored for repeatability and improved quality control.

Despite these advancements in technology, challenges continue to affect color control data and sample measurement quality. The biggest challenge in potato chip sample measurement is the non-uniform structure of the sample. Non-contact spectrophotometers offer accurate color measurements for nearly any sample structure and size—all without touching the sample surface. These advanced spectrophotometers offered new features such as automated sample height measurement using laser technology, which can be used to monitor sample surface height.  As the depth of the non-uniform sample varies underneath the instrument a real time height compensation algorithm corrects the readings to represent how a uniform sample height would read. This new technology has considerably reduced errors in sample surface differences, creating the most accurate form of color measurement for non-uniform samples.

The STHT for online monitoring and it laboratory mate the D25NC are perfect for this application.  

Chips Color Standards Reference Chart for Potato Chip
The non-uniform shape of potato chips creates many challenges in color measurement. Advanced spectrophotometers utilize non-contact sample measurement to address these issues and provide the data needed for accurate color control. Image Source: Flickr’ user Kate Ter Haar

Leaders in Color Technology and Advanced Instrumentation

Advancements in color measurement technology have revolutionized the snack food industry over the past several decades. Throughout this process, HunterLab has been a leading name in spectrophotometers and color data management. Many of the world’s leading potato chip manufacturers and snack food industry companies rely on HunterLab products to meet their needs for color quality control. The HunterLab team of experts have responded to many of the challenges listed above and worked hard develop and create spectrophotometers that address these needs. Our products offer state-of-the-art technology to provide the quality and consistency needed for consumer acceptance and name-brand recognition. For more information on our product line and to learn why more industry leaders choose HunterLab for all their color measurement needs, contact us today.

Utilizing Spectrophotometers for the Analysis of Food Dyes in Beverages

This past weekend marked the end of my youngest son’s recreational basketball league and like most youth sports teams, we headed to our local pizza parlor to celebrate. Of course with the free range soda fountain, the ever popular “graveyard” soda pick was popularized that evening by none other than my own 8-year-old son. To those of you who are uneducated in the “graveyard” refreshment, it consists of a random selection of all soda fountain choices that when combine create a unique taste and color sensation. As I watched him mix his drink creation, I noticed that the selections have greatly expanded since the original “graveyard” beverage choices from my youth. Not only have the flavor choices expanded, but thanks to the analysis of food dyes in beverages, there are now many more vivid color choices available as well.

colored analysis of food dyes in beverages
The commercial beverage industry utilizes food dye additives to create a rainbow of color choices which appeal to today’s market. Image Source: Flickr’ user The Kingsway School

From bright colored soda flavors to multi-colored sports drinks and even flavored spirits, today’s beverage color selections have far exceeded the normal range of hues. Not only do the unique flavor combinations help sell the product, but the analysis of food dyes in beverages also play an important role in product formulation. With only a limited number of dyes approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in foods, commercial beverage manufacturers must rely on only seven FD&C dyes to create the entire palette of artificial food colors to formulate the many color choices in today’s liquid refreshment selections1. Spectrophotometers offer a simple yet effective tool needed to maintain color consistency and quality in commercial beverages and can simplify the formulation process by quantifying and storing this information for batch-to-batch repeatability.

A Better Understanding Color Measurement

Color measurement varies based on sample type and purpose. The analysis of food dyes in beverages requires specific measurement techniques that are dependent on the sample type and transparency value of the liquid. Color appeal and consistency are critical when factoring in consumer choice and product acceptance. Quantifying color intensity is the first step for proper formulation and desired color outcomes.

Spectrophotometers allow for the most precise color measurements. Understanding your spectrophotometer and the unique sample variations can ensure that analysis of food dyes in beverages are accurately quantified for color quality and repeatability.

spirits analysis of food dyes in beverages
Understanding the proper color measurement techniques need for various beverages ensures that proper formulation and additives are used effectively to maintain quality. Image Source: Flickr’ user iggyshoot

Using Color Data for Formulation and Repeatability

Consistency is essential for consumer acceptance and quality control. Even slight changes or alterations in color formulations can hinder perceived quality. When developing a specific color formulation, it is important to quantify color changes in relation to food dye additives. This data can then be stored and duplicated from batch to batch and can be transferred to various processing plants without the need for visual comparison. Since even slight color changes can indicate poor quality or unsafe food products, beverage color must be closely monitored to uphold the brand reputation and quality.

Spectrophotometers offer the ability to monitor color additives continually and help develop a color averaging system. Repeated data can then be used to set color standards necessary for formulation and prompt any needed changes. Using real-time color analysis allows for any color variations to be noticed quickly and formulation changes to be addressed in a timely manner, decreasing any wasted resources and improving the profit margin.

Color Quality and Consumer Acceptance

Although taste is an important factor in beverage marketability, many studies show that the visual appeal of beverages has an even greater effect on consumer choice2. Instrumental analysis of food dyes in beverages ensures that both quality and visual recognition are maintained no matter where a product is manufactured or who is performing the color evaluation. Advanced spectrophotometers take the guess work out color formulations and are both simple and easy to use.

cola analysis of food dyes in beverages
Many leading commercial beverage manufacturers rely on advanced spectrophotometers to ensure both quality and consumer appeal. Image Source: Flickr’ user J. Triepke

At HunterLab we offer state of the art color measurement instrumentation that is backed by our friendly and knowledgeable support team. We work hard to make sure that you choose the right tool for the job and offer continued support to ensure that you are able to utilize your spectrophotometer to its full potential. For this application, we recommend using the VISTA Spectrophotometer. Unlike typical UV/Vis instruments, the VISTA uses a myriad of sample cells ranging from 1 cm – 5 cm pathlengths and continuous flowthrough cells. HunterLab spectrophotometers are trusted by many of today’s beverage industry leaders to offer the functionality and accuracy needed for color quality. For more information on our line of spectrophotometers designed for beverage color analysis, contact HunterLab today.

Analysis of Drugs and Excipients in Solid State with Spectrophotometric Technology

When I make a trip to the drugstore, I don’t usually struggle with the choice between name-brand medication and generic drugs—I tend to base my choice on the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs)1 listed on the package.

But only recently have I come to realize that the excipients listed on a drug’s packaging also play an important role. In fact, as my clients in the pharmaceutical industry have been happy to explain, manufacturers must rely on the analysis of both drugs and excipients in solid state to ensure the quality and efficacy of their products.

Fortunately—as was happy to explain to my clients—spectrophotometry can help with this process.

powder analysis of drugs and excipients in solid state
Solid state excipients consist of compressed plaques and loose powders which account for the bulk of ingredients needed for the formulation and effectiveness of today’s pharmaceutical products. Image Source: Flickr user Axel Naud (CC BY 2.0)

The Role of Excipients in Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical manufacturers can attest to the fact that excipients play a variety of important roles in the formulation of medications. While some are used specifically to help transport the active drug effectively to the proper area of the body, others might be used for suspension and delayed release in order to minimize irritation of the GI track—or designed to dissolve rapidly, allowing the API to reach the bloodstream as quickly as possible.

soluble powder analysis of drugs and excipients in solid state
Measurement of soluble powders and provide the data needed for formulation quality and product effectiveness. Image Source: Flickr user Joey (CC BY 2.0)

Of course, that’s not the end of it. Excipients also function as a way to preserve the stability of the drug and increase its shelf life. They can be beneficial in drug identification and serve as a way of improving both taste and appearance—a necessary consideration if you hope to promote consumer acceptance2.

Spectrophotometers are an important part of this evaluation and formulation process. These instruments give you the ability to quantitatively analyze excipients, and provide a tool for color control, stability testing, and purity analysis.

Color Measurement in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Color measurement data can be used to monitor excipients both prior to formulation and throughout production. But from loose powder to granulation and compression, it is important to use the correct measurement methods to ensure the accuracy of your data. Variations in texture and reflectance value will require different measurement calculations to ensure safety, consistency, and effectiveness.

Loose powders such as pharmaceutical grade talc, for example, can present challenges in purity analysis. Spectrophotometers can evaluate the chemical purity of excipients by quantifying color changes that otherwise go undetected by the human eye. This color measurement data can be used for continual analysis throughout production to ensure stability and monitor sample degradation.

talc analysis of drugs and excipients in solid state
Talc is a common excipient used in pharmaceutical production. Monitoring the whiteness value with spectral technology provides the data needed for purity analysis and safety. Image Source: Flickr user Austin Kirk (CC BY 2.0)

Advanced spectrophotometers are designed specifically to quantify such low-level changes—changes which can have an insurmountable effect on product quality. Color measurement data is essential both for formulation accuracy and to ensure safety and quality. And at all stages of pharmaceutical production, spectral analysis is necessary to meet strict regulatory standards.

Color Analysis Options for Drug Excipients

There are a wide range of color measurement instrumentation options available for the analysis of drugs and excipients in solid state. Choosing a spectrophotometer requires a basic understanding of technology as well as of your industry’s specific needs. At HunterLab, we specialize in pharmaceutical analysis and understand the challenges that accompany product formulation, purity evaluation, and stability monitoring. From plaques to powders, and throughout the compounding process, our instrumentation is specifically designed to monitor every stage of production.

Many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturers rely on HunterLab spectrophotometers to ensure the quality and consistency of the excipients used in their products and throughout their supply chain. To learn more about our line of spectrophotometers, or for help in choosing the right option for your needs, contact us today.

  1. “ Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Explained”, January 6, 2013,
  2. “ Overview of pharmaceutical excipients used in tablets and capsules”, October 24, 2008,
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