Loose Powder Color Measurement: Challenges and Solutions

Holi festival
The Hindu tradition of Holi is also known as the festival of colors owing to the brightly colored powders flung into the air as a celebration of spring. Image Source: Flickr user Steven Gerner

Spring is a time of rebirth and regeneration when color returns to our world vividly after the grays and whites of winter. And perhaps there is no better expression of this than the Hindu celebration of Holi, also known as the festival of colors. A few weeks ago, people around the world, Hindu, and non-Hindu alike, marked the coming of spring in a brilliant display of colorful powders thrown in the air and streaked across revelers. This colored powder is essential to the celebrations, originating with the legend of Krishna who colored his lover’s face to match his own blue skin. Today, four primary powder colors are used during the festival, each representing a unique aspect of the Holi celebration. As the Telegraph explains, “Red reflects love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow is the color of turmeric, and green symbolizes spring and new beginnings.”1


While traditionally these hues were created using real turmeric, flower extracts, and sandalwood paste. Today, however,  they are largely produced using artificial colorants. This is a controversial practice that has led to health and environmental concerns after reports that hazardous materials were being used in the production of the powders. “Some colors are highly toxic and can even cause cancer,” says Dr. Vikas Goswami, a senior consultant oncologist at Fortis Hospital. “People who handle colors or play Holi often end up complaining about conjunctivitis, visual impairment, asthma, and brutal skin conditions.”2 As a result, a number of commercial powder suppliers have recently returned to more natural, plant-based color sources. In order to promote safer, more eco-friendly products, however, powder suppliers must ensure that their powders accurately reproduce the vivacious colors we have become accustomed to. This is vital in order to allow customers to obtain healthier products without compromising appearance. This requires careful monitoring of color behavior throughout the production process.


Reflectance spectrophotometers are ideal instruments for measuring the color of all types of loose powders, regardless of their end use. Using a 45°/0° geometry, these spectrophotometers mimic the way the human eye sees color, only better. Without vulnerability to social, biological, or environmental interferences, spectrophotometric instruments are able to objectively analyze samples for the highest level of accuracy and repeatability. As such, they serve a critical role in the development and production of loose powders across industries, from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. However, there are a number of special considerations for loose powder color measurement that must be kept in mind during the analytical process.


person with colored powder on face
Analyzing loose powder hues comes with unique challenges due to the innate qualities of the powders. Source: Flickr User FaceMePLS


The Challenges of Loose Powder Color Measurement


Loose powders present unique challenges to the color measurement process as the result of their inherently textured, non-uniform characteristics.  Due to their particulate form, these powders are susceptible to light trapping, shadowing, and ambient light interference, opening the door to inaccurate and inconsistent analysis. As such, it is not possible to measure loose powders as-is. Instead, they must be carefully prepared and “measured through the side of a clear glass sample cell in order to be effectively made into a solid.”  


The preparation demands of loose powders make them particularly vulnerable to operator inconsistencies. It is vital to employ the same preparation and measurement techniques each time a sample is analyzed to eliminate variation and ensure batch-to-batch accuracy. To facilitate consistency, choosing a highly accurate yet user-friendly spectrophotometer that minimizes the possibility of human error is imperative. Additionally, some powders may exhibit a degree of fluorescence, making them vulnerable to any UV content in the light source and requiring the use of an instrument with a UV control option.


Sample Averaging: A Simple Solution


When working with loose powders, sample averaging is often an essential part of the process, allowing you to overcome texture and size variations via simple measurement protocols. Fine powders may allow you to create a smooth, uniform surface within the sample cell capable of being analyzed in a single measurement. However, samples with larger or irregular particles can suffer from shadowing even within the sample cell, compromising the ability of the spectrophotometer to capture accurate color information in a single reading. In these cases, averaging the results of multiple measurements, or sample averaging, can compensate for these particulate qualities. The Stothard Group explains, “Generally speaking, the more measurements taken, the more accurate the representation of the visual characteristics of the sample.”3 You may either “turn the sample between measurements, shaking the sample gently to reposition the particles or discard the sample after measurements and re-fill the sample cup with more of the sample from the same batch.” The exact number of measurements depends on the nature of the powder and your own tolerance.


pills opened with powder spilling out
Small samples of loose powders may require special sample cells to ensure accurate measurement. Image Source: Flickr user Kurtis Garbutt


Working With Small Samples


When working with scarce, hazardous, or expensive powdered materials, minimizing sample size may be preferable or even necessary. However, these conditions also demand highly reliable color measurement to ensure no materials are wasted or used unnecessarily as the result of an inaccurate analysis. Due to the challenges inherent to powders, it is particularly important to choose both a high-quality spectrophotometer and appropriate sample preparation methods. This includes selecting the appropriate sample cell when analyzing small powder samples. HunterLab’s semi-micro powder sample accessory paired with our specialized SAV port plate is the perfect solution for small sample powder measurement. Designed specifically to analyze small quantities, this apparatus allows you to consistently arrange powdered materials in the densities and heights necessary for accurate analysis of samples as small as 0.4cc. This facilitates precise capturing of color data while preserving materials or limiting operator exposure to harmful substances.


HunterLab Quality


HunterLab has been a leader in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Our innovative range of spectrophotometers, accessories, and software packages give our customers extraordinary insight and control over their products throughout the manufacturing process, even in the most challenging conditions. Whether you are working with large or small samples, solids, powders, or liquids, we have the tools you need to rapidly capture and analyze color data in a way that makes sense for your organization. Contact us to learn more about our renowned range of spectrophotometers and let us help you select the ideal instrument for your purposes.


  1. “What is the Holi Festival and Why is it Celebrated by Throwing Coloured Powder?”, March 13, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/holi-festival-celebrated-throwing-coloured-powder/
  2. “Beware of Toxic Colours This Holi”, March 22, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/beware-of-toxic-colours-this-holi/article8382747.ece
  3. “How to Measure the Colour of Powders”, February 9, 2016, http://www.colourmeasure.com/knowledge-base/2016-02-09-how-to-measure-the-colour-of-powders

Simplifying Color and Haze Measurement In Apple Juice

apple and orange juice
As consumers look for healthy alternatives to carbonated soft drinks, apple juice is making a splash. Image Source: Pexels user Jeshoots


The fact that soda isn’t the most healthy beverage isn’t news. Historically, sugar content was the quality of soda that consumers considered to be “bad for you” and diet soda was presented as a healthier alternative. Part of this perception was driven by marketing campaigns that playing up their lack of calories. That much-feared word that has become synonymous with weight gain. But in recent years, we have increasingly begun to examine the health impact of diet sodas and, more specifically, the artificial sweeteners they contain. The results have been startling. Last week a study by researchers at George Washington found that sucralose consumption is linked to weight gain; the very phenomenon so many diet soda enthusiasts are seeking to avoid.1


So what are health-conscious consumers to do? For a growing number of consumers, fruit juices offer a perfect solution. According to global market intelligence company Transparency Market Research, “the global juice market is [now] the most competitive segment in the beverage industry” and it’s expected to grow significantly in coming years.2 While some juice producers are responding to consumer demand for healthy alternatives to carbonated soft drinks by introducing exotic products, others are introducing organic and low-calorie alternatives to traditional juices. Chief among these is apple juice, an old favorite that is taking on new life in the rapidly changing fruit juice market. In Norway, for example, apple juice sales have nearly doubled in the past 5 years.3


But increasing global interest in apple juice doesn’t mean juice producers can rest on their laurels. As demand for healthier beverages has grown, so too has the desire for high quality and aesthetically pleasing products. For apple juice producers, this translates to juices of the right color and clarity, making apple juice color and haze measurement more important than ever before.


apple juice in a cup
Preventing enzymatic browning is imperative to preserving the color of fresh apple juice. Image Source: Flick user stvcr


Color Stability In Apple Juice


Apple juice is a product most of us have grown up on and so ubiquitous that it can typically be identified by appearance alone. The primary component of this identification is color; apple juice is known for its distinctive golden hue. Maintaining that color, however, can be a challenge; the color of apple juice is highly vulnerable to enzymatic browning, particularly in response to stressors such as heat during production, transportation, and storage as well as natural aging. This process doesn’t just result in off-putting aesthetics but may also “adversely affect quality, nutritional value, and safety.”4 In order to minimize these effects, juice producers must implement strict production and handling protocols, such as the use of anti-browning agents and temperature controls, to keep juices looking and tasting fresh.


Color measurement is an imperative part of the apple juice production process, both during manufacturing and during testing for longer-term color stability. Spectrophotometric instrumentation offers a simple yet sophisticated way to accurately analyze apple juice via transmission color measurement at any point during the production process to ensure that juices are behaving as expected. This technology may also be employed to evaluate the impact of a new process variable that may affect juice color, including heat treatments, ultra-high pressure homogenization, and anti-oxidation additives.5 For thorough end-to-end quality control, you may wish to analyze color behavior over time by approximating production to consumption chains, giving you insight into how your product will appear to customers.


Creating Clarity


Color, however, isn’t the only critical variable when it comes to apple juice appearance; haze is an equally important part of the puzzle. While opalescence has become more desirable with the growing demand for natural-looking products, the majority of producers still seek to produce transparent juices. However, creating clarity in apple juices brings its own difficulties.


Although haze is sometimes an indicator of contamination, the majority of turbidity is caused by “tannins, proteins, or polysaccharides, either alone or in combination” present within apples themselves and appears after bottling.6  According to Jerome Van Buren, “these haze precursors can be derived from the fruit, although some are introduced in the processing line.” As proteins, starches, and tannins aggregate, their particles grow in size and settle. Haze precursors that are “not captured by the settling particles remain in the juice” cause haze to develop. There are a number of ways to minimize post-bottling haze, including limiting inclusion of haze-forming materials in the production process and “testing freshly bottled juice for potential haze-formers.” If testing detects haze-forming material, a number of corrective measures, such as fining, may be taken to remove them from the upstream product prior to bottling.  


For most customers, haze in apple juice is generally undesirable, which is why haze measurement is a vital part of the quality control process. By measuring the degree of turbidity both before and after bottling using spectrophotometric instrumentation, you can quantify haze and determine the best course of action to prevent it in future batches. Because haze may be an indicator of contamination, this is a particularly important step for both health and safety control as well as creating aesthetically appealing products.


Simultaneous Color and Haze Measurement in Apple Juice


Traditionally, color and haze have had to be measured separately by two different instruments. In recent years, however, strides in spectrophotometric technology have made it possible to capture color and haze information in a single measurement using one instrument. HunterLab offers the most sophisticated culmination of these technological advances in the form of its new Vista spectrophotometer. With electronic calibration, a spill resistant compartment, and a small footprint, the Vista takes color and haze measurement to a new level, ensuring precise measurement, flexibility, and longevity.


For apple juice producers, the Vista presents new opportunities for obtaining the most accurate color and haze measurements possible while minimizing labor time. The ease of simultaneous measurements means that the analytical process becomes not only faster but more cost-efficient, increasing your ability to implement broad-spectrum quality control protocols. With a built-in library of color and haze scales and indexes, customizable workspaces, and multiple data views you have the tools you need to ensure your products live up to consumer expectations.


HunterLab Innovation


At HunterLab, we are committed to continuous innovation in response to the needs of our customers. This is what has led us to create the most comprehensive line-up of color and haze measurement instruments available today, helping companies across industries stay at the top of their game. In a time of increasing quality expectations by consumers, our technologies give you extraordinary insight into your product lines, allowing you to rapidly identify and correct color and haze issues to ensure only the best products are released into the marketplace. Contact us to learn more about our cutting-edge technologies and let us help you find the perfect spectrophotometer for your needs.


  1. “Study Finds Artificial Sweeteners Lead to Weight Gain, But Experts Disagree”, April 6, 2017, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/6/sucralose-found-in-splenda-zero-calorie-sweetener-/
  2. “Global Juice Market to Grow Owing to Introduction of New Vegetable and Fruit Juices; Industry Analysis, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015/2016-2021”, July 12, 2016, https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/07/12/855398/0/en/Global-Juice-Market-to-Grow-owing-to-Introduction-of-New-Vegetable-and-Fruit-Juices-Industry-Analysis-Share-Growth-Trends-and-Forecast-2015-2016-2021.html
  3. “Norway: Apple Juice Sales Almost Double in 5 Years”, March 10, 2015, http://www.freshplaza.com/article/136507/Norway-Apple-juice-sales-almost-doubled-in-5-years
  4. “Effect of Stem Bromelain on the Browning of Apple Juice”, 2009, http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=ajft.2009.146.153
  5. “Use of Ultra-High Pressure Homogenization to Preserve Apple Juice Without Heat Damage”, April 1, 2009, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08957950802715112?src=recsys&journalCode=ghpr20
  6. “Causes and Prevention of Turbidity in Apple Juice”, 1998, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08957950802715112?src=recsys&journalCode=ghpr20

Using Spectrophotometric Analysis to Determine Color Consistency in Car Clear Coat

When going for long road trips with my parents as a kid, our car would get absolutely covered in grime and dirt–so much so that its color was hard to determine. Once, after grocery shopping we returned to the car to find “wash me” scrawled on the side panel. We got the hint–it was time for a carwash.

spectrophotometric analysis car clear coat
Cars require clear coat to protect their paint, but pigment in the clear coat can distort the car’s final color. Image source: Pexels user unsplash.com

Just like my family did, your customers take for granted that their car’s color will remain the same no matter how much grime, acid rain, or UV light it’s exposed to. But those in the car manufacturing industry know that it’s the clear coat on top of the car’s paint that makes this possible. And they also know that clear coat can affect the color of the car’s paint, depending on the brand and number of coats used.

Clear Coat Is in a Car’s Protective Shell, But Is It Actually Clear?

The composition of clear coat is constantly being improved by paint manufacturers to aid in ease of application, reduce drying times, and lessen the amount of volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere. While clear coat is theoretically 100% transparent, in reality it contains small amounts of pigment and other substances that can change the final car color.1 This is an important detail for car manufacturers and auto body repair shops to understand, and it’s especially important to note if your business is considering switching clear coat brands for financial or environmental reasons.

As a manufacturer you can approach this one of two ways:

  1. Ensure that the new clear coat is perfectly transparent
  2. If your previous clear coat has slight pigmentation, ensure that the new clear coat matches that pigmentation

How Important Is Car Pigment?

Car manufacturers and those in auto body repair know better than anyone how important a car is to its owner. For many customers, their car is more than an object or tool; it’s almost a part of the family. Moreover, the color of a vehicle says a lot about its owner’s identity and sense of self, so it’s important that it is consistent between batches and in line with what is advertised and promised to customers. 

spectrophotometric analysis car clear coat
It’s important that manufacturers and auto repair shops ensure that the clear coat they use preserves color consistency. Image source: Flickr CC user Colin

Spectrophotometers and Smart Software for Accurate Color Matching

The best way to check for any pigmentation in a clear coat or any differences in pigmentation between clear coat brands is to use a diffuse/8 degree spectrophotometer with an integrating sphere operating in Reflectance Specular Included (RSIN) mode. This device will allow you to quantify:

  • What level of pigmentation (if any) there is in your clear coat with respect to the number of coatings applied to a surface
  • If there are any differences in pigmentation between different clear coat brands

With proper calibration, this process can be automated by software that does the color matching and comparison for you. Colors are quantified using the Lab color space, that is, they are assigned numerical values in three coordinates. These coordinates can be saved and compared to the values of new samples. To save time, programs can be set up to automatically perform this comparison and to notify the user of their results with a straightforward pass/fail response. This means that any technician can perform these QA measurements.  

On a smaller scale, the same spectrophotometric methods are a valuable tool for auto body mechanics and car detailers who perform touch-up repairs and detailing on cars with faded and damaged paint jobs.

Choosing the Right Tools

HunterLab’s comprehensive range of spectrophotometric instruments offers innovative end-to-end solutions to meet the specialized needs of the automotive industry. From dedicated on-line color monitoring in new car manufacturing to benchtop and portable spectrophotometers for body shops offering collision repair, customization, and restoration services, we have the tools to bring color measurement to new heights and optimize quality control. Contact us to learn more about HunterLab’s complete array of instrumentation, user-friendly software, and outstanding support services.

  1. “Fast drying clear coat composition with low volatile organic content,” October 10, 2000, https://www.google.ca/patents/US6130286

Color-Coded Packaging Becomes Part of Pharmacies’ Strategy to Prevent Medication Errors

color coded packaging
As more and more Americans come to rely on prescription medications, the risk of medication errors increase.
Image Source: Pexels user freestocks.org

Because of advances in pharmacology, the medical landscape in the United States has changed.

Illnesses that were once considered terminal are now manageable. Symptoms that once that greatly reduced quality of life can now be kept at bay. And conditions that only years ago were considered shameful have now been largely destigmatized thanks in part to the awareness raised by pharmaceutical companies.

As the number and efficacy of available medications have grown, so too have the number of people who rely on prescription medications in their daily lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, “nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two.”1 But while this expansion of therapeutic drug use undoubtedly has meaningful benefits for millions of people across the country, it also raises the risk of medication errors such as accidentally taking the wrong medication, particularly in households where multiple family members use daily medications. In 2012, nearly 300,000 people called Poison Control for assistance following a medication error. While many medication errors are relatively benign, this is not always the case; according to the FDA, “Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States.”2

As more medications come to market and the number of users continues to grow, the pharmaceutical industry is turning to innovative solutions to prevent medication error. And, as is so often the case, one of the best solutions is also the most simple: color-coded packaging.

color coded packaging
The ClearRx prescription bottles used by Target use an innovative color coding system to help family members identify their medications.
Image Source: Bart

The Rise of ClearRx

Deborah Adler didn’t set out to change medicine. Despite coming from a family of doctors, she chose a different path, enrolling in an MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. But before she was even 30, Adler had revolutionized the most common pharmaceutical product of all: the prescription bottle.

It all started when her grandmother accidentally took medication prescribed to her husband. “The drug store prescription bottle, it occurred to Adler, is not just unattractive, it’s actually dangerous. Statistics back her up: According to a recent poll conducted for Target, 50 percent of prescription-drug users have taken medication incorrectly.”3 To correct this, Adler devoted her senior thesis project to a new and improved prescription bottle design that prioritized function over form; each prescription bottle has a large flat surface onto which the label is attached, making it easy to read. The label itself features the name of the drug prominently across the top of the bottle and the top of the label, with directions directly below, making it easy to identify each medication and understand how to use it. But one of the most remarkable aspects of Adler’s design was the use of color; in her original concept, each family member was assigned a unique label color to easily differentiate between users, preventing potentially harmful medication errors.

Adler’s ClearRx bottle design was quickly snapped up by Target, which worked with Adler to make slight design changes, one of which was a color-coded plastic ring around the neck of the bottle. Each family member is assigned a different color to make differentiation easy. For Richard Stone, a Target customer in Minneapolis, the color-coding system is a big selling point; he and his wife each take 3-4 different medications and “the new bottles help.”4 “I’ve got the blue, she’s got the red. It makes it easier to tell which is which.” And Richard wasn’t the only one who appreciated ClearRx; when the bottles were phased out after CVS recently took over Target’s pharmacies, devotees of Adler’s design were outraged, taking to Twitter to demand the return of their beloved prescription bottles. Some analysts are even blaming the return to traditional bottles for Target’s falling sales; as Laura Northrup noted in The Consumer earlier this month, “Take heed, CVS: people really, really, really like those bottles.”5

Time will tell if CVS will bring back ClearRx. In the meantime, however, the devotion of Target customers to the prescription bottles sends a clear message: color-coded packaging works. At a time when pharmaceutical companies are increasingly using color as a key packaging element to increase adherence, ClearRx is a concrete, real-life example of the wisdom of such efforts.

color coded packaging
Spectrophotometers are an essential tool to ensure accurate coloration of color-coded packaging, optimizing their ability to prevent medical errors.
Image Source: Pexels user pixabay.com

Spectrophotometric Monitoring of Color-Coded Packaging

While instrumental color measurement is vital to many industries, it is perhaps never more important than when color is deployed as a medical safeguard. As such, pharmaceutical companies must take great care to choose the best tools to achieve consistent coloration of color-coded packaging elements. With a range of optical geometries, today’s sophisticated spectrophotometers are ideally suited to precisely measure the color of all packaging materials, from papers and inks to plastics and foils, ensuring accurate and repeatable results. By replacing subjective visual analysis, spectrophotometers allow you to color match with ease and continuously monitor packaging elements throughout production. If undesirable color variation is detected, affected products can be immediately quarantined and kept from entering the marketplace, thereby preventing potential medical errors.

For over 60 years, HunterLab‘s spectrophotometers have been sought out by the pharmaceutical industry to meet its diverse color measurement challenges. Our state-of-the-art technologies have been developed in response to the needs of our customers and set a new standard for accuracy, flexibility, and user-friendly design. With a comprehensive range of instruments to choose from, HunterLab provides innovative solutions for all phases of pharmaceutical packaging production, from research and development to manufacturing, giving you the highest level of insight and quality control. Contact us to learn more about our renowned spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service, and let us help you select the right tools for your needs.

  1. “Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center Find”, June 19, 2013, http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/nearly-7-in-10-americans-take-prescription-drugs-mayo-clinic-olmsted-medical-center-find/
  2. “Medication Error Reports”, March 25, 2009, http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/MedicationErrors/ucm080629.htm
  3. “The Perfect Prescription”, September 12, 2005, http://nymag.com/nymetro/health/features/11700/
  4. “Target Turns Old Pill Bottle Design On Its Head”, April 26, 2005, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7634269/ns/health-health_care/t/target-turns-old-pill-bottle-design-its-head/#.V8cBfJMrJE4
  5. “Customers: CVS Takeover Erased Everything Good About Target Pharmacies”, August 23, 2016, https://consumerist.com/2016/08/23/customers-cvs-takeover-erased-everything-good-about-target-pharmacies/

In a Booming Market, Spectrophotometers Play an Essential Role in Yogurt Quality Control

yogurt quality control
As the market continues to boom, yogurt quality control is becoming a top priority to help brands meet the expectations of today’s discerning consumers.
Image Source: Unsplash user Sambazon

It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when yogurt was not considered a trendy food, and variety meant carrying strawberry and blueberry. Then came Greek yogurt. Yes, you have technically been able to buy Greek yogurt for years, but in 2007 it represented only 1% of the US yogurt market. Now, that number is over 50% and growing.1 According to Technavio, which predicts the value of the U.S. Greek yogurt market to reach $4 billion by 2019, “The introduction of new flavors, novel packaging, and new technologies will prove to be instrumental in increasing the demand for Greek yogurt in the years to come.”

But while Greek yogurt may have made yogurt cool, it also opened the door for expansion of the yogurt market in general. “It’s clear that this is no longer a ‘business as usual’ category, ” Chris Solly, CEO of Ehrmann USA said in 2013. “Brands are looking for new ways to continue driving consumption, private label supply is tight but growing, and retailers are in a position of having more options than available space. It is clear that brands need to bring true innovation to the category to maintain consumer interest.”2 Today, yogurt manufacturers have answered that call by introducing an incredible variety of new products, including “exotic, indulgent and savory flavors, limited-edition products, mix-ins, superfoods, grass-fed and whole milk, stand-up pouches, edible packaging, and others.”

The explosion of yogurt has driven standards for product appearance, particularly color, to all-time highs; consumers are more discerning than ever and have virtually endless alternative choices if a specific brand doesn’t live up to their expectations. As the stakes rise, yogurt quality control is taking on newfound importance in the production process and an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to spectrophotometric color analysis to ensure products meet the high standards of today’s buyers.

yogurt quality control
Consumer concerns about artificial dyes are leading yogurt manufacturers to look toward more natural methods of imbuing products with desirable hues.
Image Source: Pexels user pixabay.com

Challenges in Yogurt Color

Creating desirable yogurt colors can be a challenging business, particularly as consumers increasingly reject artificial colorants and controversial dyes. This was most notably demonstrated when Dannon made headlines across the country for using carmine to lend a pink hue to their products. “[W]hen I buy strawberry yogurt I’m expecting yogurt and strawberries, and not red dye made from bugs,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Given the fact that it causes allergic reactions in some people, and that it’s easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all?”3

Jacobson may be correct in questioning the wisdom of including such a divisive ingredient considering the current public environment, but he overestimates the ease of using plant-based colors. “Unlike artificial colors, color derived from natural sources are very specific to an application,” says Rajesh Cherian of Roha. “This is because their stability is heavily influenced by factors such as acidity, process temperature, interaction with other additives, and exposure to light. Working with colors from natural origins can be challenging due to issues like fading, browning, bleeding, and even flavor changes.”4

This is of heightened concern at a time when clear glass and plastic packaging are growing in popularity within the yogurt market. As Donna Berry points out, “Sometimes the clear view may be deleterious to the product’s appearance, as light accelerates color oxidation. This is particularly true with fruit preps used in yogurt products.” As more and more yogurt manufacturers move toward natural colorants and clear packaging, precise color monitoring is becoming more important than ever before.

yogurt quality control
Spectrophotometric color measurement plays a critical role in yogurt quality control.
Image Source: Pexels user kaboompics.com

The Benefit of Spectrophotometry for Yogurt Quality Control

Spectrophotometers are designed to measure color the way the eye sees it, replacing subjective and unreliable visual assessment with objective technology. Through spectral analysis, these remarkable instruments are able to distill color information to hard data, allowing prepared food manufacturers to precisely quantify product appearance and detect unwanted variation of both raw and finished product. By creating individual color standards for each product, yogurt manufacturers are able to easily confirm that each product adheres to expectations throughout the manufacturing process as well as evaluate color stability over time to ensure that products stay appealing to customers at home.

Spectrophotometers also play an essential role in the development and assessment of new yogurt products, ingredients, and processing methods, particularly as public demand for more natural products and governmental regulation of artificial colorants change the landscape of yogurt production. Innovative new materials and processes are already being investigated to allow yogurt manufacturers to achieve the colors and color stability they want without resorting to controversial ingredients.5 As the industry continues to grow, the data provided by spectrophotometric evaluation will be key to establishing new standards for yogurt quality.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been at the forefront of innovation in spectrophotometry for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive range of portable, benchtop, and inline instruments developed to meet the diverse and changing needs of our customers in the food industry. By combining state-of-the-art hardware with top-of-the-line software packages, HunterLab offers yogurt manufacturers unprecedented insight and control to create the highest quality products. Contact us to learn more about our renowned instruments and world-class customer support services and let us help you find the perfect tools for your color measurement needs.

  1. “US Greek Yogurt Market To Reach $4bn By 2019: Technavio”, November 17, 2015, http://www.dairyreporter.com/Markets/US-Greek-yogurt-market-to-reach-4bn-by-2019-Technavio
  2. “The Yogurt Wars”, April 13, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2013/04/13/the-yogurt-wars/#7eea104746d3
  3. “Dannon Uses Bugs in Red Yogurt, Carmine Dye Contains Crushed Cochineal Insects.”, July 26, 2013, http://www.ibtimes.com/dannon-uses-bugs-red-yogurt-carmine-dye-contains-crushed-cochineal-insects-1361375
  4. “Color Considerations For Dairy Products”, December 4, 2013, http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Supplier-Innovations/2013/12/Color_considerations_for_dairy.aspx?ID=%7BC4690A44-9EFC-4936-9400-DBD691125AE4%7D&cck=1
  5. “Stability of Astaxanthin in Yogurt Used to Simulate Apricot Color, Under Refrigeration”, July/September 2014, http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0101-20612014000300018

Measuring the Color of Flour Ensures Quality Control in an Evolving Marketplace

measuring the color of flour
The production of flour has shaped economies and cultures around the world for thousands of years.
Image Source: Pexels user kaboompics.com

At a time when we are walking around with powerful computers in our pockets and standing at the cusp of self-driving cars, it can be hard to appreciate the technological discoveries of the past, the ones that have become so deeply integrated in our culture and economy that we now take them for granted. One of the most striking examples can be found in virtually every kitchen in the United States: flour.

Even before the wheel was invented, a revolutionary technology had been discovered: the production of flour. The realization that ingestible seeds could be ground into nourishing dust steered the history and fate of man in a new direction. Without the grinding stone there would be no bread or buns, no pasta or pizza, no cakes or couscous. Probably there would be fewer people on our planet. Certainly there would be no civilization as we know it. And the wheel, originally an aid to agriculture, would presumably never have been invented.1

Today, modern mills “produce hundreds of different types of flour for every conceivable application, and in incredible quantities,” using over 320 million tons of wheat flour each year. “Wheat milling has become a global industry that bears a great responsibility,” notes the FlourWorld Museum. “For the plant that was cultivated by the pioneers of agriculture over 10,000 years ago is now the stable food of a third of the world’s population – a bulwark between us and hunger.”

As overall demand for flour continues to grow globally, so too do quality standards for an ever-expanding array of flour types. This is where another revolutionary technology comes in: the spectrophotometer. By measuring the color of flour, spectrophotometers provide invaluable insight into flour quality and an objective method of assessing process variables.

measuring the color of flour
The color of flour has significant implications for product function and consumer perception.
Image Source: Unsplash user Toa Heftiba

The Color of Flour and Why It Matters

The color of flour is influenced by a broad range of variables, from wheat variety to aging, and from milling practices to bleaching and maturing agents, creating a spectrum of colors ranging from brownish grey to creamy yellow to the whitest white. These color differences take on both practical and psychological meaning; color reflects the chemical composition and processing history of each batch of flour while simultaneously influencing function and our perception of nutritional value and safety. As such, the color of flour has been a significant area of research since the advent of industrial flour production.2

First and foremost, flour color is an important indicator of suitable application; as noted by Kelli Foster for The Kitchn, “Foods made with bleached flour tend to have a softer texture, more volume, and a brighter color than those made with unbleached flour.”3 Meanwhile, unbleached flour “provides more structure in baked goods, which makes it an ideal base for things like yeast breads, cream puffs, eclairs, and pastries.” In addition to differences in product behavior, bleached and unbleached flours also produce subtle flavor differences that impact appeal to some customers.

However, bleaching itself is a contentious issue due to potential health hazards; bleaching and maturing agents have been banned in a number of countries. and in the U.S. an increasing number of consumers are now expressing concern about the impact of bleached flours, shifting demand to unbleached products. Simultaneously, whole wheat flours, which produce darker colors and more intense flavors, are becoming more appealing to an increasingly health-conscious public. Specialty and artisanal flours are also growing in popularity due to both specificity of application and real and perceived quality differences. In this changing landscape, the color of flour is taking on more significance than ever before for both individual consumers and commercial scale buyers.

measuring the color of flour
Spectrophotometric measurement of flour color allows for rapid, economical quality assessment and ensures that each batch meets consumer expectations.
Image Source: Pexels user www.lifeofpix.com

Integrating Spectrophotometric Color Measurement

While public perception of and market demand for different flour varieties may be evolving, objective color assessment is an integral part of quality control for all types of flour. Each flour variety must consistently meet buyers’ expectations to optimize marketability and produce desirable end product hues. Spectrophotometers allow producers to measure the color of flour through sophisticated spectral technology, facilitating the development of color standards and ensuring that all product falls within established tolerances. Today’s modern spectrophotometers are ideally suited to analyze the color of everything from heavily textured, nonuniform samples to fine powders, giving you the accurate and precise data you need to perform in-depth quality assessments.

Spectrophotometers may be integrated at various key locations within the production chain to monitor color throughout the manufacturing process, from raw materials to finished product. By doing so, you are able to exercise the utmost quality control protocols at each stage of manufacturing and catch unwanted variations as early as possible, improving efficacy and minimizing economic losses as the result of faulty product. Spectrophotometric technologies may also be used to evaluate novel bleaching and maturing agents, flour improvement methods, and the aesthetic impact of fortification products.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a pioneer in spectrophotometric technology for over 60 years. In that time, we have led the way in developing highly precise, flexible instruments designed with the user in mind. Today, we offer a comprehensive range of portable, benchtop, and online spectrophotometers, giving our customers the tools they need to meet their unique color measurement challenges in the food industry. When combined with our sophisticated software packages, HunterLab provides unprecedented insight into color behavior and control over product quality. Contact us to learn more about our innovative instruments and world-class customer support services and let us help you find the perfect spectrophotometer for your needs.

  1. “The History of Flour: From the Mortar to the Industrial Mill”, http://www.art-and-flour.de/english/history.html
  2. “The Color of Wheat Flour”, July 15, 1929, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac50067a018
  3. “What’s the Difference Between Bleached and Unbleached Flour?”, September 21, 2015, http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-bleached-and-unbleached-flour-223858

Ensuring Therapeutic Pet Food Quality Using Spectrophotometric Analysis

therapeutic pet food
Therapeutic pet food is a critical part of treatment and prevention of disease for millions of cats and dogs around the world
Image Source: Pexels user Krysten Merriman

There are few more helpless feelings than watching a pet struggle with illness. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, however, there are now more diagnostic and treatment options available than ever before to help our furry friends heal, improving both quality of life and lifespan beyond what could be expected even a few years ago. One particularly vital area of growth is therapeutic pet food, also known as prescription diets, which may be used either short or long-term to support specific health goals by either augmenting other forms of treatment or acting as a standalone intervention.

“Most medical conditions benefit from the right nutritional support,” says Grace Long, director of veterinary technical marketing at Nestle Purina PetCare. “Therapeutic diets complement other therapies, provide excellent nutrition and at the same time address the special nutritional needs of the pet.”1 Indeed, as our understanding of the role nutrition has in both the prevention and treatment of illnesses, pet food companies are increasingly devoting resources toward the development of therapeutic diets, which now make up an ever-growing proportion of the total pet food market in both established and emerging markets.2

The integration of therapeutic foods is now a standard part of treatment for a broad spectrum of health conditions in both cats and dogs, playing a critical role in the long-term management of kidney and urinary tract conditions, diabetes, and obesity as well as temporary critical care for pets recovering from serious illness or surgery.

The therapeutic use of these foods places a special obligation on manufacturers to ensure quality, efficacy, and safety. While healthy animals may tolerate a range of dietary configurations, animals with health challenges often have unique nutritional requirements with little tolerance for variation; in fact, tightly controlled ingredients and nutrient proportions are the hallmark of these diets. Spectrophotometric analysis provides a rapid, simple, and economical nutritional assessment method and is an essential part of comprehensive quality control protocols.

therapeutic pet food
Spectrophotometric analysis allows pet food manufacturers to gain deeper insight into the nutritional content of their products.
Image Source: Flickr user Marco Verch

Nutritional Analysis of Therapeutic Pet Food

Spectrophotometers are remarkable and versatile instruments capable of providing us with extraordinary insight into food products. Today, these instruments are invaluable within the pet food industry, helping manufacturers create and produce appealing visually appealing products and detect undesirable color variations that may indicate flawed processing or compromised safety. However, the power of spectrophotometers goes beyond the look of a product; they also give you the ability to perform detailed nutritional analysis, ensuring that therapeutic pet foods adhere to the strict nutritional requirements mandated by various health conditions.

The primary measurable components include:

  • Protein: Protein content is one of the most significant variables in therapeutic pet foods and protein levels must be carefully modulated according to the specific illness being treated. For example, while a high-protein diet is ideal for cats with diabetes, high protein levels can be detrimental to cats with kidney disease and cause renal overload. Spectrophotometric protein quantification can rapidly determine the concentration of protein in a food to ensure that the levels are appropriate for its intended use.3
  • Carbohydrate: A number of veterinary health conditions can be directly affected by carbohydrate content and proportion, particularly in cats. Spectrophotometric determination of carbohydrate allows you to precisely determine whether a food meets your requirements using a variety of methodologies.4
  • Fat: High fat content is necessary for healing, growth, and proper organ function in many pets, particularly young, nursing, and underweight animals. But while high fat content can be a lifeline for some, others require a more moderate approach, as excessive fat can cause or exacerbate certain health conditions. Spectrophotometry can be employed to quantify fat content as well as identification of specific fat types.

Spectrophotometers can also be used to assess a wide range of other ingredients, including iodine, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, to ensure proper food formulation and therapeutic value.

therapeutic pet food
Using spectral analysis to confirm determine the nutritional make-up of therapeutic pet foods ensures that each product is correctly formulated to support optimal health.
Image Source: Flickr user Isabelle Blanchemain

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of spectrophotometry for over 60 years. Our comprehensive range of portable, benchtop, and in-line instruments has been developed with the diverse needs of our customers in mind and today we offer the most sophisticated spectrophotometric tools available to the pet food industry. With the insight gained from spectral analysis, you can gain unprecedented insight into your formulations, implement meaningful quality control protocols for existing products, and evaluate new formulas with the highest level of accuracy. Contact us to learn more about our cutting-edge technologies and world-class customer support services and let us help you find the perfect spectrophotometer for your needs.

  1. “Therapeutic Diets: Improving Pets’ Quality of Life,” March 6, 2012, http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/March-2012/Therapeutic-Diets-Improving-Pets-Quality-Of-Life/
  2. “Therapeutic Pet Food Prospects,” March 13, 2014, http://blog.euromonitor.com/2014/03/therapeutic-pet-food-prospects.html
  3. “Quantification of Protein Concentration Using UV Absorbance and Coomassie Dyes,” 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423263
  4. “Analysis of Carbohydrates,”, http://people.umass.edu/~mcclemen/581Carbohydrates.html

Spectrophotometric Determination of UV Protection Essential in Booming Sunscreen Market

spectrophotometric determination of UV protection
Consumers are increasingly looking for broad spectrum protection that prevents damage from both UVA and UVB rays.
Image Source: Unsplash user Tomas Salas

When I was growing up, sunscreen bottles were still color coded according to how tanned you wanted to get; bottles of SPF 4 were a deep brown for those who planned on getting darker color while more conservative users opted for the lighter packaging of SPF 10. The true sun-worshippers, of course, would forgo sunscreen altogether, choosing instead to slather on baby oil to attract rays.

Today, sunscreen choice is a very different matter. As our understanding of the impact sun radiation has on our bodies has grown, the vast majority of consumers are no longer considering the tanning potential of sunscreens, but prioritizing the level of skin cancer protection and anti-aging benefits they provide. As sunscreen has become an everyday health and beauty essential, the sunscreen market has expanded exponentially; as noted in Cosmetics Business Market, “The global sun care market is proving to be a red hot category, with new data from Euromonitor forecasting growth of 6.8% in 2018.”1

However, the consumers aren’t just demanding higher levels of sun protection; they also want expanded formulation options and diverse applications. “In today’s beauty market, where multifunctionality is key, sun care products are expected to offer skin nourishment and anti-aging ingredients as well as UV protection, while skin care and color cosmetics products are expected to offer UV protection.” At the same time, consumers are demanding higher quality, cosmetically elegant, scientifically proven products with accurate sun protection claims, creating both new opportunities and new challenges for cosmetics manufacturers. To keep up with these market demands, spectrophotometric determination of UV protection in cosmetic products is becoming more essential than ever before.

spectrophotometric determination of UV protection
Broad spectrum protection is becoming more attractive to educated consumers who understand the dangers of UVA and UVB rays.
Image Source: Pexels user Wendy Hero

The Need for Broad Spectrum Analysis

One of the most important qualities consumers are now seeking in sunscreen is broad-spectrum protection. Historically, sunscreen manufacturers have focused their formulations on long-wave UVB protection, blocking the rays primarily responsible for immediate, visible damage such as sunburns and tans. While UVB rays are indeed associated with more damage than short-wave UVA rays, UVA irradiation also has the potential to cause significant negative effects on skin. As public awareness of both UVA and UVB effects have grown, demand for protection against both short and long-wave rays has grown. In fact, some manufacturers are now including separate metrics on labels to quantify UVA protection and determination of both UVB and UVA protection is increasingly becoming the industry standard.

Spectrophotometric determination of UV protection
Spectrophotometric determination of UV protection allows manufacturers to quantify both UVA and UVB protection.
Image Source: Flickr user Jeff Wilcox

Spectrophotometric Determination of UVA and UVB Protection

The most common method of UV protection determination is in vivo testing in the form of phototesting on human volunteers, a time consuming and labor-intensive process. To facilitate more rapid and economical testing, researchers are increasingly turning to in vitro testing “based mostly on diffuse transmittance measurements, obtained using a UV-Visible spectrophotometer equipped with a diffuse reflectance accessory.”2 This method allows you to quantify UV protection in accordance with the COLIPA International Sun Protection Factor Test to determine SPF values.

However, the COLIPA protocol and subsequent SPF determination only indicate UVB protection. UVA protection currently has no singular standardized protocol, nor a stable terminology, but rather includes a variety of descriptions and methodologies, including PPF (Phototoxic Protection Factor), PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening), and PFA (Protection Factor UVA). Like SPF determination, in vivo testing is the most common method of UVA protection determination, but has real functional and economic limitations. As such, spectrophotometrically based testing procedures such as “assessment of UV transmittance through a thin film” of sunscreen prepared on a substrate (COLIPA guidelines), instrumental solar radiation transmission measurement (Australian Standard), or critical wavelength determination (Broad Spectrum Rating) allows manufacturers to obtain reliable UVA protection information using rapid, economical, and accurate methods. Having the ability to include UVA protection information in packaging and marketing materials is increasingly attractive to consumers and helps strengthen brand reputation.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of spectrophotometry for over 60 years. Our commitment to innovation and technological excellence has led to the creation of a full range of portable, benchtop, and in-line instruments ideally suited for today’s cosmetics industry. Our spectrophotometers combine cutting-edge engineering with user-friendly designs that make them perfect for use in virtually any environment, allowing users to obtain the data they need with confidence and ease. Contact us to learn more about our renowned technologies and world-class customer support services and let us help you select the right instrument for your needs.

  1. “Global Sun Care Market to Rise 6.4% by 2018,” February 16, 2015, http://www.cosmeticsbusiness.com/news/article_page/Global_sun_care_market_to_rise_64_by_2018/105908
  2. “Spectrophotometric Determination of UV Protection Provided by Cosmetic Products with Sunscreen Properties,” 2011, http://www.chemikinternational.com/pdf/2011/07_2011/chemik_2011_7_8.pdf

Measuring the Color of Peanut Butter to Ensure Product Quality and Appeal

the color of peanut butter
Peanut butter has a uniquely American history and consumers have strong preferences for how peanut butter should look.
Image Source: Flickr user Denise Krebs

When I lived in London, one of the things I missed most about the United States was peanut butter. Yes, there was peanut butter in the UK, but it was different and it wasn’t the sort of difference you could look past. And, as I came to find out, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. In fact, American peanut butter was a hot commodity; whenever someone would go home on holiday or have visitors from the US, we would put in our peanut butter orders and wait impatiently until we could get our hands on what we knew and loved.

It makes sense that Americans have a unique relationship with peanut butter. It was, after all, John Harvey Kellogg, a physician and vegetarian, who began giving his patients nut butters in the 1890s to provide them with a healthy, easy-to-eat source of protein.1 Simultaneously, he began supplying peanut grinders to health food stores, allowing a relatively small market of niche, expensive peanut butters to flourish.

Mass commercialization, however, didn’t happen until the 1920s, when Joseph Rosefield introduced the use of hydrogenated fat in the peanut butter manufacturing process, preventing oil separation and drastically increasing the appeal of the product. Rosefield’s invention came just in time; “as the scarcity of meat [during WWII] required citizens and soldiers to seek protein alternatives.”2 From that point on, peanut butter took off. Today Americans spend over $1.8 billion on peanut butter annually – more than any other nation in the world – and over half of peanuts grown in the United States are destined to be made into peanut butter.3

This history is noteworthy because it informs how Americans approach peanut butter and guides the purchasing decisions of consumers. Peanut butter is not seen as an exotic food eaten on rare occasion, but as a staple that is consumed throughout life, something we remember from our grade school lunch boxes, something we eat as comfort food, and something that has become inextricably linked to our culture. It is familiar and beloved. As such, consumers have very specific expectations of peanut butter products and strong preferences regarding what it should taste, look, and smell like, preferences that have typically been ingrained from childhood. The color of peanut butter in particular is of utmost importance when it comes to influencing consumer choice and experience.

the color of peanut butter
The color of peanut butter is an important indicator of quality and reflect both the quality of raw ingredients and correctness of processing.
Image Source: Pexels user stock.tookapic.com

The Importance of Color in Peanut Butter Grading

What peanut butter should look like isn’t simply an arbitrary matter of personal choice, but an instrumental part of peanut butter quality assessments made by the USDA. As Norman Whetzel of HunterLab says, “The USDA quality system assigns peanut butter quality ratings 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

While the color of peanut butter accounts for only 20% of the USDA score, that 20% is vitally important. Color, after all, is the only attribute readily apparent to consumers prior to purchase and even slight color variations can significantly diminish appeal. Simultaneously, color can be an important indicator of product taste, as it is directly influenced by roasting and other process variables; unexpected or undesirable color isn’t just a matter of aesthetics, but can be a very real sign of diminished quality. As such, adhering to color standards is critical to commercial success as well as achieving Grade A classification.

the color of peanut butter
Spectrophotometrically assessing the color of peanut butter is critical to ensuring accuracy and consistency.
Image Source: Flickr user Dano

Quantifying the Color of Peanut Butter

To facilitate color assessment, the USDA has developed a set of color standards in the form of four plastic chips that act as guideposts. Designed to be compared visually to the color of peanut butter, these color standards are inherently unreliable; a wide range of variables can interfere with accurate matching, including light conditions, viewing environment, and color vision differences between viewers. In contrast, spectrophotometers allow you to precisely assess the color the same way every time, removing the variables that compromise accuracy, and providing an objective basis of analysis. Today, spectrophotometric color analysis is the gold standard within the peanut industry, significantly expanding your quality control capabilities.

However, your internal peanut butter color standards should not be based solely on spectrophotometric color measurements of the plastic chips. Whetzel explains:

A USDA Peanut Butter Color standard i[…] is different in appearance from actual peanut butter. While you can measure the color of the Peanut Butter Color chips as a direct approximation, the best correlation method is have several peanut butter quality experts visually evaluate the color of the peanut butter using the USDA Peanut Butter visual guides for your product color range of interest. Then measure the color of the peanut butter using your standard method and look at the correlation of Hunter L or CIE L* (lightness) to the consensus grades of the quality group. This will give you the best correlation to these USDA Peanut Butter grades, and you should be able to report to a single decimal place if you are doing instrumental measurement.

This process may be intricate, but it will allow you to create a reliable metric for satisfactory peanut butter color that you can then use to assess subsequent batches, ensuring the highest degree of precision and consistency.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of spectrophotometry for over 60 years. Our dedication to innovation and technological excellence has led us to develop an extraordinary lineup of instruments that give our users the accuracy and flexibility they need to implement rigorous color control protocols. With a complete range of portable, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers to choose from, we provide the peanut industry with the tools it needs to monitor color quality throughout the manufacturing process, resulting in both higher quality products and increased efficiency. Contact us to learn more about our renowned spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer support services.

  1. “Why Americans Love Peanut Butter,” February 9, 2009, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/02/why_do_americans_love_peanut_butter.html
  2. “The History of Peanut Butter,” January 23, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/22/peanut-butter-history_n_1222585.html
  3. “Love Me, Love My Gunk: Why Don’t Brits Love Peanut Butter As Much As Americans Do?” April 5, 2012, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/love-me-love-my-gunk-why-dont-brits-love-peanut-butter-as-much-as-americans-do-7622212.html

Spectrophotometric Determination of Fish Freshness Protects Consumer Health

determination of fish freshness
The color of fish tells us a story about its freshness and safety.
Image Source: Pexels user stock.tookapic.com

Humans have evolved as highly visual creatures, using color as one of the most important signifiers of safety. From a red stop light to a brightly colored snake, color acts as an instant and instinctual visual alarm bell warning us of potential dangers. This use of color as an indicator of safety is perhaps most clearly evidenced by the act of pulling out a piece of fish from the refrigerator and asking, “Does this look okay to you?”

Unlike many color/perception relationships, the one between fish color and food safety is relatively linear; although even experts may not be able to distinguish between white and red wines in blind taste tastes, you can be pretty sure that if a fish looks bad, it is bad. The color change itself is an indicator of a specific sequence of biological events and the process begins almost immediately following death. As Nollet and Foldra point out in the Handbook of Seafood and Seafood Product Analysis

The appearance of a newly landed fish is unforgettable, in that the interplay of subtle shades of beautiful colors make it a joy to behold and irresistible as an item of food. Just a few hours after death, though, it begins to look less obviously attractive, and its now ‘ordinary’ colors are much more familiar to the majority of the public.1

Just as familiar is the look of spoiled fish product: dull, lifeless, decaying, and carrying the potential for food poisoning.

But the determination of fish freshness isn’t just up to individual consumers; the seafood industry as a whole must take great care to assess the quality and safety of products throughout the supply chain, particularly at a time when traceability is a growing concern.

determination of fish freshness
Spectrophotometric instrumentation provide an objective basis for the determination of fish freshness.
Image Source: Pexels user Steyn Viljoen

Instrumental Determination of Fish Freshness

Because the color of fish acts as a relatively predictable indicator of freshness, instrumental color analysis offers a simple, economical, and rapid method of reliable quality assurance. By replacing subjective human vision, which is prone to a host of biological and environmental vulnerabilities, instrumental color analysis provides a clear and stable basis of assessment that ensure fish is evaluated the same way every time, regardless of operator skill or location. The sophisticated color measurement capabilities of modern spectrophotometers make them ideally suited to objectively assess fish freshness at key points in the supply chain, from raw product to minced, dried, cooked, or otherwise processed fish. Not only does this allow you to evaluate the quality of fish and fish products for the safety of the public, but it also allows you an objective way to identify potential mishandling either within your own facility or by your suppliers and take swift action to correct the issue.2

determination of fish freshness
Selecting the right spectrophotometer is essential to ensuring accurate color measurement of fish.
Image Source: Pexels user Nguyễn Linh

Choosing the Right Spectrophotometer

Fish, however, present several unique physical qualities that make the choice of spectrophotometer particularly critical to obtaining accurate, repeatable measurements. First, the color of fresh fish is rarely homogenous, but rather intricately variable. As such, a single measurement may not provide a complete picture of fish freshness. Selecting an instrument that can take multiple measurements in rapid succession and average the results is vital to ensuring that the color values truly represent the sample as a whole. Fish and fish products may also be textured and require labor-intensive sample preparation using outdated spectrophotometric instruments. Choosing a spectrophotometer with integrated height measurement eliminates the need for this sample preparation because it automatically accounts for height variation, eliminating the risk of operator error and saving valuable time.

At HunterLab, we have been pioneers in color measurement for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive lineup of portable, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers designed to address the complex color measurement challenges faced by our customers across industries. Our dedication to innovation and technological excellence allows us to offer smart solutions for the needs of the fish industry, providing the highest level of quality assurance and giving you the ability to protect both consumer health and your brand. Contact us to learn more about our renowned spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service, and let us help you select the perfect tools for your needs.

  1. “Handbook of Seafood and Seafood Product Analysis,” November 24, 2009, https://books.google.ca/books/about/Handbook_of_Seafood_and_Seafood_Products.html?id=LfXHWtGvRj8C&redir_esc=y
  2. “From Ocean to Plate: Ensuring Traceable Supply Chain in the Seafood Industry,” May 17, 2016, http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/from-ocean-to-plate-ensuring-traceable-supply-chain-in-the-seafood-industry/

How Brands Can Use Spectrophotometric Measurement to Ensure Color Consistency in Home Decor

color consistency in home decor
The democratization of design has heightened consumer expectations at all price points.
Image Source: Pexels user Unsplash.com

In the past decade, interest in home renovation and decorating has exploded. Today, blogs, magazines, and entire television networks devote themselves to the beautification of homes, showcasing the latest trends while offering helpful hints about how audiences can achieve the look themselves. Indeed, aesthetic beauty is the primary driver of this design boom; according to a Houzz survey, 83% of responders reported that their design projects were undertaken with the goal of “improving the look and feel of a space” while only 54% were looking to increase their home’s value.1 And while for some home design means major renovation, for most it means a focus on the small details that make a house a home.

Retailers know this and have responded by offering more and better home décor items at all price points, effective democratizing good design; in recent years everyone from Target to Ikea have enlisted high end designers to produce affordable and stylish items for the masses while shops like Design Within Reach give consumers easy access to previously hard-to-source items. “Good design used to be something generally reserved for those with money,” writes one home decorating blogger. “Today you can go to Ikea and create a beautiful space without spending an arm and a leg.”2

Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, believes that the widespread availability of good design has empowered consumers who, “aspire to a certain level of interior design, but professional help is beyond their reach.” “So they go at it their own way,” she says. “Now they’re the authorities.”3

color consistency in home decor
As demand for color consistency in home decor product lines increases, manufacturers are increasingly turning to instrumental color measurement for accurate color analysis.
Image Source: Pexels user lifeofpix.com

Color Measurement Challenges

The exponential rise in demand for modern and attractive home décor items has also made the standards of production higher than ever before. For manufacturers, this has meant an increased interest in color management technologies that allow for continuous monitoring of color throughout production. Such technologies allow users to end reliance on inherently subjective visual assessment in favor of objective, instrumental color analysis that goes beyond the limits of human sight.

But while maintaining color consistency between identical products using instrumental color measurement is a fairly straightforward process in most circumstances, the real challenge often lies in maintaining color consistency across a product line that encompasses disparate materials; matching drapery to duvet covers, toothbrush holders to toilet brush handles, bathroom mats to soap dishes. Of particular concern is the accurate measurement of heavily textured items such as terry cloth towels and pile rugs, which present special challenges to color measurement due to the variations of light and shadow that affect how color is perceived.

color consistency in home decor
HunterLab’s spectrophotometers incorporate integrated height measurement to ensure accurate color measurement in heavily textured items such as terry cloth.
Image Source: Pexels user Elisabeth Smithard

Creating Color Consistency in Home Decor

Today’s modern spectrophotometers offer an ideal solution for even the most challenging color measurement needs, allowing manufacturers to optimize color consistency in home décor items. The versatile optical geometries of spectrophotometric instruments give you the ability to accurately capture the color of everything from flat, opaque surfaces to transparent glass and plastics with precision and ease. By selecting between RSEX and RSIN modes, you have the option of measuring color alone or color and appearance based on your purposes, facilitating color matching and optimizing visual color consistency.

But not all spectrophotometers are created equal; while many modern spectrophotometers can handle flat samples, textured samples continue to be a real challenge for manufacturers, often requiring labor intensive sample preparation that leaves the door open for operator error and often only marginally improves color measurement accuracy. To overcome these challenges, HunterLab has developed specialized algorithms that compensate for texture variation through integrated height measurement. By accounting for the way height variation affects visual perception, these sophisticated instruments allow for the accurate assessment of all forms of textured items, from plush towels to etched plastics. Additionally, this technology eliminates the need for time-consuming sample preparation and the possibility of human error, thereby increasing efficiency and minimizing costs.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a pioneer in color measurement for over 60 years. Our commitment to technological excellence and continuous innovation allows us to offer a comprehensive lineup of modern spectrophotometers that help our customers meet the needs of today’s discriminating consumers. With a full array of portable, benchtop, and inline instruments to choose from, you can implement the highest color quality control protocols at every phase of product development and manufacturing. Contact us to learn more about our spectrophotometers, color management software, and world-class customer support services, and let us help you find the right solutions for your color measurement challenges.

  1. “Home Improvement Projects Are On the Rise in 2013,” April 10, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/houzz/2013/04/10/home-improvement-projects-are-on-the-rise/#1bb4db173b9e
  2. “Be Thankful For: The Democratization of Decorating,” November 2011, http://orsolykaurban.blogspot.ca/2009/11/be-thankful-for-democratization-of.html
  3. “Design Well Within Reach,” April 2, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/weekinreview/03cannell.html?_r=0
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