Measuring the Color Stabilizing Effects of Antimicrobial Textile Treatments

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments can prevent unsightly discoloration caused by interactions between bacteria and perspiration. Image Source: Unsplash user Michael

Two years ago, the MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group, New Balance, and The Royal College of Art teamed up to do something remarkable; make bacteria attractive. The cohort designed a line of clothing  – called Second Skin – infused with the bacillus subtilis natto bacterium. Wired Magazine explains that the natto bacterium “expand and contract depending on the amount of humidity in the air – the more humidity present, the bigger the bacteria get.”1 This expansion opens up air vents within the clothing, allowing for increased breathability as the wearer becomes active and perspires. “By printing natto cells onto a biofilm, then printing that biofilm onto spandex fabric, scientists can control exactly how the fabric will behave,” says Anna Green of Mental Floss.2 The result is a lineup of garments as innovative as they are beautiful.

But as forward-thinking as Second Skin is, most microbes found on clothing aren’t quite as useful. In fact, they can be dangerous, as fabrics act as a convenient transportation service for dangerous microbes like Staphylococcus, which can lead to a number of serious illnesses in both humans and animals. But even benign living organisms found on textiles can have undesirable effects like unsightly discoloration, including underarm yellowing and the infamous ring-around-the-collar. As such, a growing number of clothing manufacturers are now introducing antimicrobial treatments to their textiles, minimizing or eliminating bacterial proliferation. Spectrophotometers are playing a vital role in the development of these new antimicrobial technologies, helping to protect health and safety while minimizing unwanted color shifts.

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments are particularly valuable for the healthcare environments to protect health and safety. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Growth of Antimicrobial Textile Treatments

The interactions between bacteria, textiles, and the human body can lead to unappealing discoloration in all types of fabrics and garments. While antimicrobial treatments are particularly valuable in healthcare environments, even everyday consumers stand to benefit from improved antimicrobial technologies. This is especially true when it comes to clothing regularly exposed to heat, humidity, and perspiration. “Sweat is normally colorless but might turn a yellowish color due to interaction with bacteria on your clothing,” explains Katherine Mariaca of Livestrong. 3 As such, athletic apparel, socks, and underwear are often at the forefront of antimicrobial textile innovations. In fact, antimicrobial treatments are now a standard feature in high end sportswear products, as consumers seek higher quality items that will resist undesirable color shifts and odors.

Evaluating the Performance of Antimicrobial Textile Treatment in Use

The majority of antimicrobial textile treatments are solutions applied to fabrics after the dyeing process is complete to “control the growth of microbes by various mechanisms ranging from preventing cell reproduction, blocking of enzymes, reaction with the cell membrane to the destruction of the cell walls and poisoning the cell from within.”4 The minimization or elimination of microbial growth means that there is nothing for perspiration and other environmental factors to interact with in order to cause discoloration, effectively stabilizing textile color and extending the life of the garment. These treatments must be safe and durable, standing up to washing, drying, and everyday wear without disrupting aesthetic quality.

While measuring the number and kind of microbes found in antimicrobial textiles is the primary mode of efficacy investigation, a separate evaluation process must occur to determine the color stabilization effects of antimicrobial treatments. Spectrophotometers are ideal instruments for this evaluation process, owing to their ability to accurately capture color data of all fabric types using objective parameters that go beyond the unreliable human eye. By spectrophotometrically measuring the color of the textile after exposure to environmental stressors such as heat, humidity, perspiration, and laundering and comparing it to a baseline measurement, you can identify and quantify color shifts. This information can then be used to fine-tune formulations and optimize color stabilizing effects.

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments can cause undesirable color shifts, particularly yellowing in white and light-colored fabrics. Image Source: Pexels user jumbopic.com

Evaluating the Effects of Antimicrobial Treatments on New Textiles

Although the purpose of antimicrobial treatments is partially to prevent discoloration when the garment is in use, they can also cause inherent color shifts upon production, particularly in white and light-colored garments. Silver-based treatments are known for yellowing, for example, compromising aesthetic appeal in individual garments while potentially causing color disharmony within a clothing line. This is especially true when the line is comprised of a number of different fabric types, which may interact with the treatment in different ways.

Spectrophotometers allow you to precisely monitor color behavior caused by the introduction of antimicrobial textile treatments to determine which treatments are best suited for your purposes. Certain types of antimicrobial treatment may require additional stabilizing agents to counteract the yellowing effects of the primary agent. For example, researchers employed a spectrophotometer to determine that chitosan (CS) and montmorillonite-dihydroxy ethylene urea (MDEU) “increased the whiteness index values of cotton fabrics treated with KSF containing different silver concentrations.”5 1,2,3,4-butanetetracarboxylic acid (BTCA) has also been found to prevent color variation in cotton fabrics treated with colloidal nano silver.6 Such findings are invaluable to perfecting treatment processes and creating textiles that perform aesthetically as well as they do functionally. Because spectrophotometers allow you to accurately correlate process variables with color behavior, you can easily tailor formulations to meet your exact requirements.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been at the forefront of color measurement innovation for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive lineup of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers to suit the unique needs of the textile industry. When combined with our customizable color software packages, our instruments offer the highest level of insight into textile color behavior possible, allowing you to perfect formulations and processes. Contact us to learn more about our renowned technologies and let us help you select the right spectrophotometer for your purposes.

  1. “This Living Clothing Morphs When You Sweat”, October 28, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/10/this-living-clothing-morphs-when-you-sweat/
  2. “Living Clothing That Responds To Your Sweat”, October 30, 2015, http://mentalfloss.com/article/70575/living-clothing-responds-your-sweat
  3. “What Are the Causes of Yellow Perspiration?” March 3, 2017, http://www.livestrong.com/article/107724-causes-yellow-perspiration/
  4. “Antimicrobial Performance of Cotton Finished with Triclosan, Silver and Chitosan”, August 27, 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40691-015-0040-y
  5. “Development of Antimicrobial Cotton Fabric Using Bionanocomposites”, December 2013, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10570-013-0057-6
  6. “Durable Antibacterial and Cross-Linking Cotton with Collodial Silver Nanoparticles and Butane Tetracarboxylic Axid Without Yellowing”, January 2012, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927776511005388?via%3Dihub

The Evolution of Paint Color Trends and Why Color Measurement Matters

paint color measurement

In the world of paint, vibrant new shades are replacing neutrals. Image Source: Unsplash user William Felker

In the past decade, home design blogs have been a virtual sea of greys, whites, and blacks. But recently, something started changing. From pink walls to deep jewel-toned kitchen cabinetry, color is coming back to the world of home decoration.

If a quick scroll through Apartment Therapy doesn’t convince you, perhaps Sherwin Williams’s National Paint Week Color Psychology Study will. Released earlier this year, the study reveals that a full 58% of Americans “say that more vibrant colors should be used throughout the home rather than just neutral tones.”1 Not only can this move away from neutrals liven up your living space, it can actually affect how you feel. “Homeowners shouldn’t stress when trying new colors, and many will likely find it a worthwhile endeavor,” says Dr. Sally Augustin, a color psychology expert at Design with Science. “Vibrant colors can have positive psychological effects. Emerald greens can be energizing, seeing red can give us a boost of strength, and yellow can provide a sense of warmth.”

Of course, the process of picking a paint color is a little more complicated than that; after all, consumers want colors that look as good as they make them feel, and what looks good is constantly evolving. The paint color trends that were all the rage fifteen years ago now look tired and dull. Meanwhile, we may currently have little interest in the shades we’ll be clamoring for in five years. But there was a time when those taupe walls were the height of sophistication and there will probably be a time when we want nothing more than Pantone’s Color of the Year 2022 on our walls.

paint color measurement

The evolution of paint color trends is driven by both organic and carefully planned processes. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Evolution of Paint Color Trends

We live in a time when interest in home decoration has reached fever pitch and the latest home fashions can spread across the globe in hours thanks to social media. In this environment, it’s critical for paint manufacturers to stay on top of paint color trends.

So how do these trends develop? The process is both wonderfully organic and carefully planned. One of the greatest influences is the Color Marketing Group (CMG), “a non-profit that helps pick and predict paint colors.”2 Throughout the year, CMG members participate in a series of workshops to discuss the evolution of color trends around the world. They then select a variety of colors they believe will rise in popularity and bestow the title Pantone Color of the Year on the most important hue. As James Bartlett writes in The Los Angeles Times, “politics, pop culture, spots, technology, and social issues can influence the selection of colors.”

The CMG color picks provide vital direction to industries and companies across the globe, helping them choose exciting and marketable hues for their products. And chief among these is the paint industry.

Spectrophotometers allow you to perfect paint formulations. Image Source: Pexels user Tookapic

The Role of Spectrophotometers

For the paint industry, putting color trends into practice isn’t simply a matter of promoting existing shades. Rather, many paint manufacturers develop new color palettes both in response to changing trends and to drive them. This is a critical part of establishing yourself as a leader in the field and staying relevant in a competitive market. But the process of developing new paint colors isn’t as simple as it may seem; it requires a sophisticated understanding of color theory and the use of cutting-edge technologies to create the perfect blends. Perhaps the most important tool available for this process is the spectrophotometer.

Spectrophotometers measure color the way the eye sees it, only better. These instruments are ideal for analyzing the color of pigments, bases, draw downs, and finished products to ensure that each component and stage of the paint creation process  is accounted for. By distilling hues to objective spectral data, operators are able to obtain a precise understanding of color quality and behavior. This data can be used to analyze new hues, identify color matches, determine paint opacity, and perfect formulations.

As each ingredient is added to a mix, the spectrophotometer will monitor how the color is affected and alert you when the paint hits your desired hue, allowing you to develop the ideal recipe. The advanced technology of spectrophotometers means that you are able to capture the precise information you need regardless of geometric attributes like gloss, ensuring that your coloration stays accurate across your full range of finishes.

Once each formula has been perfected, the data set provided by spectrophotometric analysis serves as an instrumental part of ongoing production of both components and finished product. By measuring each batch against the standard, you can quickly determine whether the color falls inside your tolerance range and accept or reject the product. The data can also be used to color match paint chips and promotional materials as well as analyze paints mixed in retail environments. This ensures consistency and allows you to only release the best products into the marketplace. At a time when consumers are on the hunt for very specific shades, this is essential to making sure what they see is what they get.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a leader in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today we offer a comprehensive range of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers that can be easily integrated into laboratory, manufacturing, and retail environments. Combined with our customizable software packages, our instruments provide you with the highest level of color quality control available on the market today. Contact us to learn more about our innovative line-up and let us help you develop the next generation of paint colors.

  1. “Americans Say They’re Ready for More Vibrant Colors, But Many May Still Play it Safe With Neutrals”, May 10, 2017, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/americans-say-theyre-ready-for-more-vibrant-colors-but-many-may-still-play-it-safe-with-neutrals-300455211.html
  2. “How, Exactly”, Does a ‘Color of the Year’ Get Chosen?”, December 2, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-how-pantone-chose-color-of-the-year-20151202-story.html

Perfecting Natural Textile Dyes Using Spectral Analysis

The marriage of technology and time-honored tradition is helping manufacturers perfect environmentally-friendly, natural textile dyes. Image Source: Unsplash user drmakete lab

 

Technological advances have changed the way we live, work, and play. From smartphones to self-driving cars, scientific advances are quickly opening up new possibilities we could not have imagined only a few decades ago. And, yet, despite the proliferation of the man-made and artificial, we are simultaneously witnessing growing interest in a return to time-honored manufacturing using natural materials. In the world of textiles, the trend toward plant-based dyes marks a profound shift in approach and process.

Since the late 1800s, man-made pigmentation sources have eclipsed natural dyes in popularity owing to their ostensibly superior qualities. But as a research cohort from Kumaruguru College of Technology writes the International Journal for Scientific Research & Development, “Environment-friendly dyes are recently enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of concerns with the carcinogenic, mutagenic, and sensitizing characteristics of many synthetic dyes.”1 According to Georgia Kalivas, who teaches in the textile department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, “the byproducts of industrial dyeing include aromatic solvents, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, and heavy metal salts.”2. Not only can these synthetic components affect human health, but they can impact entire ecosystems via effluent produced by the textile industry, leading to significant environmental deterioration. Now, a growing number of manufacturers, big and small, are investigating the use of plant materials to create safe, beautiful dyes.

But the turn towards natural textile dyes doesn’t mean eschewing technology. Rather, a marriage between technology and the natural world is helping to perfect the creation of plant-based pigments and dyeing practices to help them compete with synthetic versions. Spectrophotometers, in particular, are playing a critical role in guiding researchers and textile manufacturers as they seek to improve environmentally responsible dye quality and performance.

Spectral analysis is playing an instrumental role in exploring and expanding the possibilities of plant-based dyes. Image Source: Unsplash user Nafinia Putra

Using Spectrophotometry to Expand the Color Palette

One of the primary shortcomings of natural dyes tends to be their limited color palette in comparison to synthetic dyes. In order to make natural textile dyes an attractive alternative to synthetic versions, manufacturers must find dye sources and processing techniques that compensate for this shortcoming.

While there is a broad array of traditional plant-based dyes, their color range and intensity is often not able to compete with man-made pigmentation. Additionally, as natural dyes fell out of favor, much of the knowledge regarding plant-based sources and processes has been lost due to lack of documentation and practice. As such, researchers are now looking to discover and rediscover dye sources that expand the possibilities of natural palettes and achieve a greater intensity of color. Spectral analysis is allowing experts to precisely quantify how different dyes behave and distil color quality to objective data to tailor dye formulations in ways that can approximate the qualities of synthetic dyes. The researchers at Kumaraguru, for example, employed spectrophotometry to investigate the behavior of dyes derived from forest trees to identify absorbance levels and determine how to create the most intense hues through plant-based pigmentation, a significant step toward replacing harmful dyes with eco-friendly versions.

Of course, dyes affect different types of fabrics in different ways; the material that produces a vibrant hue in wools can look muddy in a cotton textile due to the nature of the fibers. As such, it is imperative to analyze color in the precise textile type or range of textile types for which it is intended. The sophisticated optical geometries and integrated height measurement capabilities of modern spectrophotometers ensure accurate color measurement in all varieties of textile by accounting for variables such as texture and sheen.

The interaction between dyes and mordants can have a significant impact on color levelness and fastness. Image Source: Flickr user photographerpandora

Evaluating Mordants to Improve Color and Color Fastness

The raw dyes themselves, however, are only one part of the equation. An equally important factor in the creation of natural dyeing processes is the use – or absence – of mordants. As Joan Marks wrote over four decades ago, “Even though the same [dye] formula is repeated, colors vary because different mordants may be used.”3

Mordants are nothing new; they have been used for at least 4,000 years to alter textile color, promote color levelness, and improve color fastness, another traditional weakness of natural dyes. What is new, however, is the use of spectrophotometry to analyze the impact of mordants on various natural dyes and fabrics to optimize color uniformity, intensity, and fastness. In a study published in Sustainable Chemical Processes in 2015, for example, researchers employed spectral analysis to discover that “un-mordanted samples dyed in mango and guava leaves extracts showed excellent levelness quality while the un-mordanted ones dyed in henna leaves showed good levelness quality.”4 Additionally, “among the mordanted samples the levelness quality was comparatively better in case of alum mordanted dyed samples and the average ΔE value was increased gradually when moved from alum to tin and finally to ferrous sulphate.”

These findings are significant in that the researchers were able to objectively correlated textile color behavior based on multiple variables to determine best practices for each dye source. Providing reliable, repeatable data allows textile manufacturers to better select their own processing methods to ensure that their fabrics look and perform the way you want them to. This includes not only initial color quality but color fastness and longevity, which can easily be evaluated using spectral data. By providing a blueprint for the art of natural textile dyeing, it is possible that we will see plant-based dye use supplant synthetic dyes to a meaningful degree in the future, helping to protect both humans and the world around us.

Insert Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5eXxCG99ZM

 

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a leader in the field of spectral analysis for over 60 years. Today, we offer the highest quality lineup of color measurement tools available to help our customers in the textile industry refine their practices. With a complete range of portable, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers to choose from, you can easily integrate the objective color analysis at any point in your research and development or manufacturing process. By combining our renowned instruments with our customizable software packages, you can truly take your color quality control protocols to new heights. Contact us to learn more about the possibilities of color measurement and let us help you select the perfect instrument for your purposes.

  1. “Extraction of Natural Dyes from Forest Tress and their Application in Textiles”, 2013, http://www.academia.edu/6801880/Extraction_of_Natural_Dyes_from_Forest_Trees_and_their_Application_in_Textiles
  2. “Colors of the Caldron: A New Generation Discovers Grow-It-Yourself Dyes”, April 4, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/05/garden/a-new-generation-discovers-grow-it-yourself-dyes.html
  3. “Natural Dyes from Plants”, November 3, 1979, http://www.nytimes.com/1974/11/03/archives/natural-dyes-from-plants-natural-dyes-from-nuts-and-leaves.html
  4. “Study on the Color Levelness of Silk Fabric Dyed with Vegetable Dyes”, December 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40508-015-0038-1

Color Measurement in Treated Sportswear: Spectrophotometers Lead the Way to Innovation

Sportswear sales are quickly eclipsing more traditional varieties of apparel. Image Source: Unsplash user Scott Webb

The early 2000s were the era of premium jeans. Popularized by celebrities like Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Kanye West, premium denim brands popped up by the dozen, offering a plethora of washes and cuts. Even in the face of recession, companies like True Religion, 7 For All Mankind, and Hudson proliferated despite high prices, as consumers clamored to get their hands on an endless array of $300 pairs. Then something changed. Sales declined, shuttering what were once some of the most desirable denim brands on the planet and leaving others in uncertain futures.

What accounts for this market decline? The answer lies in sportswear. “Buyers are increasingly filling their closets with yoga pants and leggings, which they’re wearing not just to the gym, but also to run errands and meet up with friends,” says Abha Bhattarai in the Toronto Star. “True Religion’s $319 skinny jeans have been replaced by Lululemon’s $98 yoga pants.”1 Indeed, as brands like Rock & Republic filed for bankruptcy, purveyors of athletic wear saw generous increases in sales. In 2016, “sales of sportswear outpaced all other categories for the third year in a row, increasing just under 7% in 2016 and ‘causing growth in other categories to look rather tame in comparison.’”.2.

As the sportswear market grows, so too does competition. As Allied Market research notes, brands like Under Armour, Nike, and Lululemon are having to step up their game to maintain presence. “Partnerships and acquisitions are prime growth strategies adopted by these companies to sustain the intense competition in the market,” notes Allied Market Research.3 One of the most fundamental strategies, however, is the consistent production of high-quality products paired with new technologies that increase appeal to buyers. And spectrophotometers are playing a prime role.

Innovations like anti-microbial and UV-protectant fabric additives are becoming vital components of sportswear. Image Source: Pexels user Mabel Amber

New and Novel Fabric Treatments

Athletic wear doesn’t just have to look good, it has to perform. With this in mind, sportswear manufacturers are introducing new and novel products that go beyond traditional apparel to give consumers clothing that does double-duty both during workouts and everyday activities. Two of the most important features to emerge from this new area of athletic textiles are anti-microbial and UV-protecting fabric finishing additives.

“Anti-microbial treatments […] can make clothing – including smelly socks – permanently germ-free,” says Jeff McMahon.4 Using spray on solutions, these treatments inhibit the growth of bacteria, rendering them permanently germ-free and making them ideal for use in hospital and other healthcare settings. But manufacturers of athletic wear have quickly realized the potential of antimicrobial treatments in their own products, as the absence of bacteria minimizes or eliminates the undesirable smells so often associated with sportswear products. “Dirt and body oils are difficult to remove and can leave your activewear smelling funky after only a few washes,” explains Melissa Fehr, a sportswear designer in London.5 As such, antimicrobial solutions are highly attractive components of sports apparel and are currently employed by athletic wear giants like Lululemon as well as smaller upstarts.

But anti-microbial additives aren’t the only fabric treatment taking the sportswear world by storm. With widespread concern about UV ray exposure and the emergence of better technologies, interest in UV-protectant clothing as risen sharply in recent years, particularly in the athletic apparel intended for outdoor use. “Sun-safe clothing has come a long way since the scratchy garments introduced in the 1990s,” said Adriana Barton in The Globe and Mail. “Manufacturers used to rely on tight weaves to block out the sun’s rays. [But] today’s sun-protective sportswear is more breathable, lightweight, and stylish. Garment makers use a combination of special dyes, minerals or chemical treatments to increase an item’s ultraviolet-protection factor or UPF.”6 Built-in UV protection allows users to spend considerable amounts of time participating in sports activities without having to worry about sun damage, whether their concern is sunburn, premature aging, or skin cancer. As such, these fabrics are essential for many consumers and an invaluable part of many sportswear lines.

Spectrophotometers allow for accurate measurement of textile colors, allowing manufacturers to account for textile treatments. Image Source: Pexels user Scott Webb

Color Measurement of Treated Sportswear

As sportswear grows in popularity, color quality and variety are of utmost importance to attract consumers. These colors must not only be appealing, but consistent in order to fortify brand identity and desirability. However, the anti-microbial and UV-protectant chemicals added to modern sports apparel complicate the color creation process, as they may alter the color quality produced by untreated formulations. As such, it is imperative to carefully measure the color of treated fabrics to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Spectrophotometers are ideally suited to monitor textile colors owing to their sophisticated optical geometries and objective distillation of chromatic data. Regardless of fabric texture and finish, spectrophotometers are able to capture vital information regarding color quality and behavior to facilitate color matching and ensure consistency. This data may be used to identify the precise impact of fabric additives and treatments, allowing manufacturers to tailor recipes and account for color shifts.

The user-friendly designs of today’s spectrophotometers allow operators to conduct precise color analysis without extensive training or laborious and time-consuming sample preparation. As such, sportswear companies are able to easily integrate color measurement in their quality control protocols at critical phases of production, ensuring that all products released into the marketplace are accurately colored. This is particularly important when color is an integral part of brand identity, as it ensures consistency and easy recognizability.

HunterLab Innovation

For over 60 years, HunterLab has helped clothing manufacturers obtain accurate data regarding the color of their products to heighten the quality and facilitate innovation. Today, we offer a versatile range of handheld, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers to ensure precise spectral analysis in any environment. These instruments represent the highest level of color measurement technology available on the market today, which is why 7 of the world’s top ten unwoven fabric manufacturers choose HunterLab products. Contact us to learn more about our spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service.

  1. “Pricey Jean Manufacturers Going Bankrupt”, July 10, 2017, https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/07/10/pricey-jean-manufacturers-going-bankrupt.html
  2. “Sportswear is Carrying the Global Apparel Industry”, January 23, 2017, https://qz.com/889672/sportswear-is-carrying-the-global-apparel-industry/
  3. Sports Apparel Market by End User (Men, Women, Kids) and Mode of Sale (Retail stores, Supermarkets, Brand outlets, Discount stores, Online stores) – Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014 – 2020”, October 2015, https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/sports-apparel-market
  4. “New Antibacterial Clothing: Secret Ingredient Revealed”, July 9, 2011, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2011/07/09/new-antibacterial-clothing-secret-ingredient-revealed/#3974c5153250
  5. “A Guide to Activewear Fabrics”, https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/01/a-guide-to-activewear-fabrics
  6. “Save Your Skin with Sun-Protective Clothing”, June 3, 2016, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/save-your-skin-with-sun-protective-clothing/article30257991/

Perfecting the Color of Plastic Playground Equipment

playground equipment
Plastic playground equipment comes in a broad variety of colors to create vibrant plays paces for families. Image Source: Flickr user Frances Gonzales

I can tell it’s summer by the sounds I hear from my window. Ecstatic with summer vacation excitement, children laugh and shriek at the playground next to my house, running, swinging, and climbing themselves into exhaustion. To me, it is the soundtrack to a season full of lazy days and late night swimming

The playground was built a year ago, replacing worn and discolored plastic parts with new, brightly colored components. The result is a wonderland of swings, jungle gyms, and slides, still looking fresh out of the box. But while countless families are now enjoying this new addition to our community, few are aware of the complex processes that must take place in order to create and preserve the vibrant colors of plastic playground equipment.

 

The Benefits of Plastic Playground Equipment

Playground equipment can be built using a wide variety of materials, from wood to steel, rope to rubber. Plastics, however, are amongst the most forgiving materials, providing relatively soft surfaces, rounded edges, and no risk of splinters.1 As such, playgrounds are increasingly integrating plastic components in their designs, allowing for improved safety and comfort. For the environmentally conscious, recycled plastics are particularly popular choices.

But the benefits of plastic playground equipment is also aesthetic; available in a virtually endless range of colors, plastics allow for the creation of vivid and beautiful spaces for kids to play and explore. Creating those colors, however, can bring unique challenges.  

Precise blends of pigments and color-protecting additives create the perfect colors for modern playground equipment. Image Source: Unsplash user Joel Filipe

 

Creating Masterbatch Color Formulations

Creating colored plastics is a multi-step process that begins with the correct formulation of masterbatches, the additives that give plastics their color. For playground equipment that will be exposed to the elements, this depends not only on the correct selection of pigments, but the appropriate integration of components such as light fast pigments and UV stabilizers to ensure longevity.2 These additives can impact the final appearance of plastic and this impact must be accounted for during formulation.

Evaluating the color quality of masterbatches is difficult when relying on the human eye alone due the variations in color vision and lack of objective descriptors. In order to ensure that each masterbatch produces the desired color, plastics manufacturers must rely on cutting-edge color measurement technologies of spectrophotometers. These instruments allows you to objectively quantify color data and create a universal language of color that may be used across operators and locations. As Tony Bestall, Director of Silvergate Plastics writes:

The spectrophotometer can measure the color of a physical sample and also be used to check the accuracy of a color match. Not only does it identify precise coordinates on a spectrum of over twenty million colors, but it can store specific references and data, including industry standard RAL and Pantone references. More color references can be added as they are created, thereby building a comprehensive library of accurate formulations or recipes from which to match a color.

Spectrophotometers produce accurate and precise spectral data from individual pigments as well as final blends for complete end-to-end masterbatch quality control. Once a formulation has been perfected, plaques can then be created for color matching purposes.

 

Monitoring the Plastic Production Process

Masterbatch production is of course only the first step in the creation of colored plastics; there are many factors influencing the color of finished plastic products and multiple points of vulnerability within the production chain. Chief among these is correct masterbatch use. As Bestall explains, “When masterbatch is approved for sale, post quality control, it will be within specification and supplied at a recommended ‘use at percentage’ that will exhibit a color that is very close to the original standard.” It is vital that this use at percentage is adhered to in order to produce the desired color and avoid unwanted color variation.

But even if the correct proportion of masterbatch to polymer is obtained, incorrect coloration may still occur for a number of reasons. The most common cause is poor distribution, or insufficient mixing of the masterbatch into the polymer. This is typically the result of “static build-up within the processing equipment,” resulting in restricted flow that ultimately leads to color variation and streaking. Other potential causes for inaccurate coloration include faulty raw materials and processing errors during extrusion and molding.  

Because plastics are vulnerable to undesirable color variation at several phases in the production process, it is essential that spectrophotometric color analysis is integrated throughout the production chain. This allows for total quality control at each stage of production by continuously monitoring color behavior at critical points of manufacturing and giving you the opportunity to take rapid corrective action should unwanted color variation occur.

Polymer and texture variations can present significant challenges for color matching. Image Source: Flickr user Steffen Kjær Larsen

 

Color Matching Plastic Playground Equipment

Playground designers typically rely on a number of multiple polymer types to create different components of a playground that form a cohesive whole. This use of multiple polymers introduces new difficulties, as each plastic has unique qualities that impact color behavior both at the point of production and over time.3 Spectrophotometers are essential to observing color behavior in various polymer types and identifying correctly or incorrectly matched components. When incorrect coloration is detected, the data collected from the spectrophotometric analysis can be used to finetune process variables impacting the final appearance of the plastic and ensure a correct match.

Texture variation also produces challenges to the color matching process; even if two components are produced using the same masterbatch, polymer, and extrusion process, they may appear unmatched due to differences in texture. Smooth, glossy surfaces, for example, often appear to have more intense coloration than matte, heavily textured surfaces Since the visual appearance can change as the gloss or the texture of the plastic varies it is important to measure the total color. This is best done using a sphere Spectrophotometers such as the HunterLab UltraScanVis or UltraScanPro. As such, you are able to produce exact color matches regardless of polymer and surface variation.

 

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a leader in color measurement technologies for over 60 years. Our renowned line-up of spectrophotometers has been developed in response to our customers in the plastics industry, allowing us to offer the finest instruments for your unique needs. Whether you are in the first stages of masterbatch development, analyzing the effects of UV exposure on plastic components, or performing QC checks on completed products prior to shipping, we have the tools you need to ensure the highest level of quality control. Contact us to learn more about our innovative technologies and let us help you select the perfect spectrophotometer.

  1. “Outdoor Play: Designing, Building, and Remodeling Playgrounds for Young Children”, http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=65
  2. “Understanding Colour Variation and How it Occurs”, June 5, 2017, http://www.britishplastics.co.uk/blogs/guest-blog/understanding-colour-variation-and-how-it-occurs/
  3. “Colour Matching and Colour Theory”, October 29, 2013, https://www.slideshare.net/SiddharthaRoy11/mr-siddhartha-roy-colour-matching-and-colour-theory

Using Spectrophotometry to Measure the Impact of Fruits and Vegetables on Skin Tone

Spectrophotometers have played an essential role in the evaluation of fruits and vegetables for decades. Now, spectrophotometers are promoting increased produce intake. Image Source: Unsplash user Mike Dorner

As early as the 1920s, scientists have used color-based evaluation systems to determine the quality of fruits and vegetables. The first attempts were rudimentary, employing the manual use of Munsell color matching disks and other methodologies reliant on visual analysis.1 Such approaches were inherently subjective, dependent on the error-prone human eye, limiting their accuracy. But with the introduction of spectral analysis, that changed. Suddenly, there was an objective way of measuring color, one that allowed researchers to precisely categorize the quality of fruits and vegetables via spectral reflectance values rather than unreliable human sight.

Today, spectrophotometers are employed by fruit and vegetable producers all over the world to evaluate both the appearance and the constitution of produce. These sophisticated instruments allow for the highest level of quality control to ensure only the most appealing products enter the marketplace. Additionally, the captured data guides horticultural practices and protects public health and safety.

But while spectrophotometers have led to the production of more consistent and visually appealing produce, this has yet to translate into increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Now, researchers want to change that.

Despite ample evidence that that fruits and vegetables provide important health benefits, intake remains low. Image Source: Unsplash user Sven Scheuermeier

Inadequate Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are invaluable parts of a healthy diet, promoting cardiovascular health, lowering disease risk, and aiding digestion.2 There is even evidence that “eating a diet rich in fruits [and vegetables] can actually prevent the onset of clinical depression.”3 As a result, the US federal dietary guidelines recommend people eat 2-3 cups of vegetables per day and 1.5-2 cups of fruit in order to main good health.

But most of us aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables to experience these benefits, despite ostensible growing interest in healthier lifestyle habits. According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “87 percent of Americans don’t meet recommendations for fruit consumption and 91 percent don’t meet recommendations for vegetable consumption.”4  This inadequate fruit and vegetable intake can have a profound impact, damaging both physical and mental health. Spurred by these findings, public health officials are now working to promote higher fruit and vegetable consumption, primarily via nutritional education targeted at schoolchildren. “Better dietary practices earlier in life might lead to better practices later,” the researchers note. “Increased attention to food environments in multiple settings, including childcare [and schools] might help improve fruit and vegetable intake, and thus help prevent chronic disease.”

 

Increasing the Appeal of Fruits and Vegetables for Young Women

Researchers in Australia, however, are taking a different route. Rather than touting the physical health benefits of fruits and vegetables to children, they want to appeal to vanity in order to promote fruit and vegetable consumption amongst Caucasian women age 18-34, who have amongst the lowest adult produce intakes. “Recent evidence has shown that young women are motivated to change their health behaviors based on improving their appearance and looking good rather than health concerns,” they write. “Appearance-based interventions focusing on other health risk behaviors (smoking and sun exposure) in young adults have been successful in motivating behavior change.”5

But the researchers didn’t focus on the effects of fruits and vegetables on weight or weight loss, as one might expect. Rather, they were interested in the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on skin color:

A recent appearance-based intervention displaying the effects of fruit and vegetable intake on participants own facial skin color found that this approach motivated increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Interventions that focus on appearance could be a novel way of motivating young women to improve […] fruit and vegetable intakes.

In other words, we may have been going about things the wrong way; rather than focusing on long-term health benefits, young women are driven by a desire for immediate aesthetic improvement.

Spectrophotometers allow for the accurate, noninvasive measurement of skin tone. Image Source: Unsplash user Anna Sastre

Spectrophotometric Measurement of Skin Color

In order to determine how various fruits and vegetables impact skin color, the researchers used spectrophotometric instrumentation to measure reflectance values. This non-invasive method optical method allows for accurate determination of color to precisely correlate produce constitution with changes in skin tone, demonstrating the potential for novel uses of spectrophotometers to promote better public health.

The data revealed that higher fruit and vegetable intakes were strongly associated with skin color, particularly skin yellowness. This yellowness has been found to be perceived as more desirable than other skin colors in Caucasian women.6 “In the adjusted regression model, for every additional serving of combined fruit and vegetables per day there was an increased 0.8 units in overall skin yellowness and 1.0 units in unexposed skin yellowness,” the authors note. Produce with high levels of lutein/zeaxanthin were particularly strongly associated with skin yellowness, possibly due to their relatively high bioavailability. Although the raw data difference may appear to be small, it is “perceived as a visible increase in the appearance of skin as healthy and attractive.”

The authors acknowledge that more research is needed to determine whether “the observed effects could be used as a tool to motivate young women to change their dietary behavior.” However, the success of other public health campaigns in appealing to vanity suggests that such strategies could prove to be valuable in the promotion of increased fruit and vegetable intake.

 

HunterLab Innovation
HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and online spectrophotometers to suit the diverse needs of our customers. From the food industry to the medical research community, our instruments offer the highest level of accuracy, precision, and flexibility for a broad variety of applications. Coupled with our customizable software packages, you can gain unprecedented insight into color quality and behavior. Contact us to learn more about our renowned products and customer support services and let us help you select the perfect instrument for your purposes.

  1. “Applications in Analysis of Fruits and Vegetables”, http://baesil.engineering.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2015/06/Slaughter_Abbott_NIR_Review.pdf
  2. “Consequences of Not Eating Fruits & Vegetables”, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/consequences-not-eating-fruits-vegetables-6202.html
  3. “Your Mental Health Suffers When You Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables”, September 22, 2015, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1X03jVaDMIU0KWZY2ZV-XxHaLqFto_crEcOxcYPkzXRo/edit
  4. “Most Americans Still Don’t Eat Their Fruits & Veggies”, July 9, 2015, https://www.livescience.com/51500-fruit-vegetable-consumption-united-states.html
  5. Fruit, Vegetable and Dietary Carotenoid Intakes Explain Variation in Skin-Color in Young Caucasian Women: A Cross-Sectional Study”, July 15, 2015, http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/7/5251/htm#B5-nutrients-07-05251
  6. “Make Your Face Look As Healthy As Possible”, May 19, 2017, https://hmri.org.au/news-article/make-your-face-look-healthy-possible

Measuring the Color of Chocolate Sweetens Appeal in a Changing Market

The changing chocolate marketplace is raising the bar for quality and opening up opportunities for experimentation. Image Source: Pexels user Kaboompics

Late last month, chocolate lovers received welcome news: a new study published in Heart revealed that chocolate reduces the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a common form of heart arrhythmia.1 By examining data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Healthy study, researchers found that people who consumed 1-3 servings of chocolate once a month had a 10% lower rate of new atrial fibrillation diagnosis than those who ate less than one serving a month. What’s more, the rate of diagnosis reduced “17% for one weekly serving, 20% for two to six weekly servings, and 14% for one or additional daily servings.”[“Chocolate May Reduce Risk of Developing Common Heart Arrhythmia”, May 24, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2017/05/24/chocolate-may-help-reduce-risk-of-developing-common-heart-arrhythmia/#6fbea37e3faa]

 

These findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that chocolate has the potential to protect cardiovascular health. Although most research thus far has focused on dark chocolate, the new study included both dark and milk chocolate. This follows data published in 2015 indicating that any type of chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.2  And while doctors aren’t entirely sure why chocolate appears to benefit heart health, but they do have guesses. As Dr. Howard LeWine, chief medical editor of Harvard Health Publications, says, “It may be related to flavonoids, a type of antioxidant produced by plants. Flavonoids have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and fight cell damage.”3

 

This new recognition of the health benefits of chocolate also has clear benefits for the chocolate industry, allowing for new product and marketing opportunities and changing the way the public perceives sweet treats. Dark chocolate is already outpacing milk in terms of growth, attributed largely to growing awareness of its impact on cardiovascular health. But Katrina Markoff of artisan chocolatier Vosges Chocolate believes there’s more to the story. “Dark chocolate has health benefits and that is a source of appeal, but I also believe people’s palettes are really becoming more sophisticated,” she says. “There is more awareness and curiosity about milk and dark and even different specific varietals.”4 Indeed, the high-end chocolate market has exploded in recent years, spurring major players like Nestle to develop premium offerings while also opening up the door for a niche bean-to-bar industry.

 

In this changing environment, there is more pressure on both industry old-timers and newcomers to produce chocolates of the highest quality. At the same time, public acceptance of new and novel products means there is also plenty of room for experimentation. And whether you are refining traditional treats or inventing new concoctions, measuring the color of chocolate is now more important than ever before.

The color of chocolate gives consumers important clues about taste and quality. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Importance of Chocolate Color

The color of chocolate is essential to its appeal. After all, chocolate is so strongly associated with a color but the word itself suggests a hue. But, of course, chocolate comes in a broad range of shades, from creamy whites to the darkest browns. The exact shade of each batch is determined both by its raw ingredients and its processing and each chocolatier has different standards for what they want their chocolates to look like. Because consumer expectations of taste and quality are strongly shaped by chocolate color, monitoring this variable is essential to producing the most appealing products.

 

While high-quality chocolate may come in a variety of shades, there is one color phenomenon that must be avoided: fat bloom. The development of this white layer is “not only visually unappealing but also impacts the flavor and textural qualities, which are important determinants of consumer preference.”5 Fat bloom may be the result of processing errors, recipe design, temperature fluctuations, or poor important to understand when and why it is occurring to hone in on the problem and implement corrective action.” Continuous color monitoring is vital to identifying the presence of fat bloom as early as possible as well as determining its cause.

 

Spectrophotometrically measuring the color of chocolate provides the greatest level of insight into product color and appearance. Image Source: Pexels user Markus Spiske

 

Measuring the Color of Chocolate Spectrophotometrically

So how do you measure the color of chocolate? Using the sophisticated technology of spectrophotometers. These remarkable instruments allow you to collect precise data about chocolate color behavior throughout the production process. The color of raw ingredients and finished products may be analyzed with the highest degree of accuracy regardless of material form; the color of liquids, powders, and solids can be easily captured and recorded.

 

Using the data provided by spectrophotometric measurements, you can create the standard to which you want products to conform and set your personal tolerance parameters.  Subsequent batches will then be compared to this data, automatically alerting you to any color variations that fall outside your chosen tolerance. This instant feedback gives you the opportunity for early intervention when undesirable coloration is detected. Not only does this allow you to contain the defective product, but it can also provide invaluable clues regarding recipe faults, processing errors, and potential contamination. This is particularly true when spectrophotometers are integrated throughout the production process, monitoring color at each stage of manufacturing, as well as analyzing the color behavior of finished and stored chocolates. At a time when cocoa supply is tightening and prices are predicted to surge, being able to quickly take corrective action and minimize waste is an important step toward stabilizing costs.6

 

HunterLab Quality
In today’s changing chocolate marketplace, quality is more important than ever. Seeking out the most advanced color measurement technologies is vital to ensuring that your products are of the highest caliber to optimize consumer appeal. At HunterLab, we understand that color can make or break food products, which is why we offer a comprehensive range of spectrophotometers designed with the unique needs of the food industry in mind. Our user-friendly portable, benchtop, and in-line instruments allow you to easily integrate sophisticated color measurement tools throughout your production process in a way that makes sense for you. Contact us to learn more about our renowned spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service and let us help you choose the right instruments for your needs.

  1. “Chocolate Intake and Risk of Clinically Apparent Atrial Fibrillation: The Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study”, May 23, 2017, http://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2017/05/01/heartjnl-2016-310357.info
  2. “Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Healthy Men and Women”, June 15, 2017, http://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2015/05/20/heartjnl-2014-307050
  3. “Sweet Dreams: Eating Chocolate Prevents Heart Disease”, June 17, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sweet-dreams-eating-chocolate-prevents-heart-disease-201506168087
  4. “Top 3 Ways the Chocolate Industry is Changing”, January 13, 2017, https://smartasset.com/insights/top-3-ways-the-chocolate-industry-is-changing
  5. “Chocolate Fat Bloom”, April 2013, http://www.blommer.com/_documents/Chocolate-Fat-Bloom-article.pdf
  6. “The End of Cheap Chocolate? Cocoa Futures Surge Most on Record“, May 30, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-30/the-end-of-cheap-chocolate-cocoa-futures-surge-most-on-record

Measuring the Color of Aloe Vera Gel to Ensure Consistent Quality

Despite the astounding technological growth, when it comes to food consumers are increasingly interested in the benefits of natural products like aloe vera. Image Source: Pexels user Tina Floersch

Over the past two decades, we have witnessed the emergence of technologies that were previously unimaginable. From the rise of the internet to the automation of manufacturing, technology now shapes our world in ways that have fundamentally altered how we function. Both individually and collectively. Yet, while our dependence on high-tech living is greater than ever, we are simultaneously experiencing a new appreciation for natural goods that have stood the test of time. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the food industry. In this dialectical environment, traditional plants are increasingly being incorporated into modern edible products. And one of the stars of this movement is aloe vera.

Aloe vera is best known for its topical, sunburn-soothing applications. But, owing to its healing properties, the sticky substance has actually been used in food form for thousands of years. Rich in antioxidants, amino acids, minerals, and essential vitamins, aloe vera is said to regulate metabolic activity, alleviate inflammation, and even prevent diabetes.1 Today, aloe vera is available in a virtually endless array of edible products, from gel capsules to yogurt to the extraordinarily popular aloe vera juices and waters that have taken the world by storm in recent years.2

This enthusiasm for ingestible aloe vera comes at a time when consumers demand not only natural products but natural products of the highest quality. For aloe vera products, this means that manufacturers are now turning to the possibilities of new technologies to enhance their products both functionally and aesthetically. In order to evaluate the effects of these technologies on the sensory properties of aloe vera products, measuring the color of aloe vera gel has become a critical part of the assessment process.

Aloe Vera drink
Incorporation of aloe vera gel in a range of new edible products is spurring researchers to develop new technologies that will preserve the plant’s functional and sensory properties. Image Source: Flickr user Health Gauge

 

Incorporating New Technologies in Aloe Vera Gel Processing

To allow raw aloe vera to be transformed into a safe consumable product with a stable shelf-life, it must first undergo processing. Often of the side-effect of processing is the removal of the very properties for which aloe vera is renowned. Heating, dehydration, and grinding may all leave the aloe vera products with minimal or no active ingredients. As such, there is now growing interest in using our advanced technologies to develop new processing methods that will preserve its beneficial properties while giving consumers the sensory experience they have come to know.

 

One of the most promising technologies available to date is high hydrostatic pressure (HHP). According to a cohort of researchers led by Karina Di Scala, HHP “optimizes the intake of nutritive phytochemicals in human food” and makes it “possible to obtain safe and wholesome food that maintains all sensory qualities.”3 In contrast to heat-based processing methods, HHP minimizes the risk of thermal damage, allows for improved flavor and texture, and can be performed more rapidly. However, one of the most striking benefits of HHP is the possibility of color retention.

 

Measuring the Color of Aloe Vera Gel

The color of aloe vera gel is one of its most significant sensory components, signaling freshness and suggesting the taste. Even slight deviations from consumers’ color expectations can have a drastic impact on how aloe vera products are perceived and experienced. Due to the vital role of color, the researchers determined that color retention must be an integral part any assessment of HHP technology.

In order to measure the effect of HHP on aloe vera gel color, Di Scala et al. employed a HunterLab MiniScan spectrophotometer to collect objective color data. As they note, “Color as a sensory characteristic is best evaluated through the determination of color difference, a quantity that expresses color variation with respect to a reference value.” By measuring the color of samples processed at various settings and comparing them to a standard based on untreated control samples, the researchers were able to determine an optimal pressure range (150 to 250 MPa). Combined with investigation into HHP’s impact on antioxidant capacity, phenolic content, firmness, and rehydration ratio, “these results showed that HHP technology … would be highly beneficial for the production of a high quality ingredient.”

Spectrophotometers offer a simple, rapid, and economical way to monitor color at every stage of the manufacturing process. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

 

The Value of Spectrophotometers

Spectrophotometers are a critical part of evaluating emerging technologies as we seek to create better processing methods for aloe vera and optimize the health benefits of this remarkable substance. However, the value of spectrophotometers goes much further; these instruments can be easily integrated into the manufacturing processes itself to ensure accurate coloration at every stage and continuously monitor the impact of process variables on the production line. By giving you real-time feedback on aloe vera gel appearance, you can instantly be alerted to an undesirable color variation that compromises the quality of your product. This allows you to ensure that only the best products are released into the marketplace, helping you both enhance public perception of your brand and minimize the economic costs associated with a faulty product. At a time when consumers demand the highest quality, this can be pivotal for your business and solidify your place in an increasingly competitive market.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been at the forefront of color measurement technology for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive range of cutting-edge spectrophotometric instruments to help our consumers in the food industry create the best possible products for a new generation of discriminating consumers. With a full lineup of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers to choose from, we have the tools you need to rapidly assess color quality at any stage of the research or manufacturing process. Contact us to learn more about our renowned instruments, customizable software packages, and world-class customer support services.

 

 

  1. “What Are the Benefits of Eating Aloe Vera?”, June 23, 2015, http://www.livestrong.com/article/245440-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-aloe-vera/
  2. “Why Is Everyone Suddenly Drinking Aloe Juice?”, February 10, 2015, http://www.prevention.com/beauty/aloe-juice-benefits
  3. “Chemical and Physical Properties of Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller) Gel Stored After High Hydrostatic Pressure Processing”, February 20, 2013, http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0101-20612013000100009

Why Measuring the Color of Vanilla Ice Cream Matters Now More Than Ever

ice cream cone
As the ice cream market becomes more competitive and specialized than ever before, spectrophotometric color measurement is becoming increasingly critical to monitor appearance and quality. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

 

Summer is a time for lazy days at the beach, backyard barbecue parties, and chasing fireflies into the evening. It’s also the time for ice cream. Whether lured by the familiar sound of the neighborhood ice cream truck or drawn in by a new wave of socially conscious ice cream shops, we flock toward these frozen treats in massive numbers1. According to Fortune, Americans spent over $13 billion on ice cream in 2013, “not including restaurant sales,” and the average consumer will eat ice cream almost 22 pounds of ice cream each year2. Despite the explosion of the frozen yogurt market, ice cream sales still outnumber frozen yogurt sales by a factor of 24 to 1. What’s more, ice cream sales have shot up in recent years in countries like Turkey, Brazil, and China, adding to what is currently a $78 billion global business.

 

However, the ice cream market is changing. As the public has become both more health conscious and more interested in food sourcing and quality, ice cream manufacturers have had to re-evaluate their production and marketing strategies. For some, this has meant moving toward more natural ingredients, devoid of the artificial colors and flavors many major ice cream producers have relied on for years. For others, it has opened the door to ice cream manufacturing for the first time, giving creameries the opportunity to enter the burgeoning premium ice cream market. In cities like Los Angeles and New York, people are lining up around the block to sample novel flavors like sticky rice and mango or labneh with pistachio and candied orange offered by artisanal shops3.

 

But despite the introduction of virtually limitless new and novel flavors, the most popular ice cream variety remains vanilla. According to the International Ice Cream Association, vanilla ice cream is preferred by 29% of consumers, with chocolate coming in second place at a mere 8.9%4. With the transformations occurring within the world of ice cream, however, vanilla can no longer simply be, well, vanilla. Rising consumer demand for high quality products is forcing both long-time players and newcomers to raise the bar and perfect their vanilla ice creams. With the stakes higher than ever, spectrophotometric color measurement is now becoming an increasingly critical part of the manufacturing process.

 

vanilla
The color of vanilla ice cream is affected by a range of process variables, including whether real vanilla or synthetic vanillin is used in the manufacturing process. Image Source: Flickr user Joy

 

Why the Color of Vanilla Ice Cream Matters

 

Color is a vital aspect of any food; research has confirmed again and again that what we see deeply affects how we experience foods and can make or break a particular food product. This may be particularly true of food “basics”, like vanilla ice cream. Consumers have specific expectations of what vanilla ice cream looks like and while there may be a range of acceptable colors, a product that falls outside of that range can turn off customers simply due to appearance.

 

Part of this is logical; the color of vanilla ice cream reflects its ingredients and we may reasonably expect a yellowish creamy variety to taste different than a pale white vanilla ice cream. The color of ice cream flavored using natural vanilla is typically different than that flavored using vanillin, for example. The other part, however, is sentimental. “Ice cream is about sense memory,” says Michael Palmer, owner of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, a Santa Monica-based creamery with a number of popular Los Angeles-area outposts5. “Everybody has a story, a memory about ice cream.” Part of that sense memory is aesthetic; you want vanilla ice cream to look a certain way because you remember it looking that way in the past, regardless of whether appearance is directly correlated to the flavor. Because, ultimately, it is not just the taste, but the experience of ice cream consumers are seeking. And that experience begins with sight.

 

Spectrophotometers are ideally suited to measure the color of vanilla ice cream to ensure the highest level of quality in every batch. Image Source: Pexels user Madeline Tallmann

 

Measuring the Color of Ice Cream

 

The ideal color of vanilla ice cream is subjective and will vary according to each manufacturer’s process and preferences. Creating and reproducing that color, however, requires objective analytical tools. This is particularly true when working with pale shades that can be particularly susceptible to the impact of ambient light and other environmental interferences. Additionally, the nature of ice cream itself presents unique challenges for accurately assessing color. As Rachael Stothard writes:

 

The physical characteristics of ice cream do make it hard to measure consistently; it would be detrimental to alter the production process to attempt to attain a sample of the frozen finished product and most measurements would be taken in a warm laboratory meaning the sample would be changing consistency as it melts. Therefore, when talking of measuring the color of ice cream, it is not the frozen matter being measured but rather the liquid substance that gives ice cream its desired color.6

 

Spectrophotometers are ideally suited to measure the color of ice cream via sophisticated optical geometries that allow you to accurately capture reflectance values over the visible spectrum.

 

Ice cream samples should preferably be poured or pipetted in circular, glass cups that fit flush against the sample area and allows the liquid “to be distributed evenly for measurements. Plastic cups may be used in environments with a high risk of breakage, although plastic’s susceptibility to scratching could compromise measurement accuracy. To enhance the reliability of results, each sample should either be covered by an opaque cover or backed by a white backing tile depending on your preference. One sample from a batch, however, is not enough. Rather, multiple measurements should be taken of each sample and multiple samples should be analyzed from each batch. Sample averaging will allow you to achieve the greatest insight into the color behavior of each batch, optimizing accuracy.

 

The Benefits of Color Measurement

 

Measuring the color of vanilla ice cream has multiple benefits that enhance overall quality and ensure that your product is the best it can be. First, it gives you the data you need to determine the exact shade of white needed for your ice cream. During the product development process, spectrophotometric analysis allows you to determine the impact of each variable on color and gives you the opportunity to tailor your manufacturing process to create your standard and tolerance range. Once in production, spectrophotometers allow you to monitor your ice creams by automatically alerting you when a batch falls outside of your desired tolerance. When this happens, you have the opportunity to halt production to determine the cause of the variation, minimizing product waste and making it possible to quarantine faulty product.

 

In today’s competitive environment, the ability to tailor the appearance of your vanilla ice cream to your exact specifications and consistently reproduce that color in each batch can be imperative to attracting discerning consumers. At the same time, the ability to prevent the release of a faulty product while minimizing material and labor waste has real economic benefits. As such, investment in a spectrophotometric instrument can pay for itself many times over during the course of its life.

 

HunterLab Quality

 

HunterLab has been on the cutting edge of color measurement technology for over 60 years. Today, we offer the most advanced spectrophotometers and accessories available to suit the needs of both large and small ice cream producers. With versatile, user-friendly designs, our instruments are easily integrated into any manufacturing environment to give you the highest level of quality control at any stage of your process. Contact us to learn more about our renowned range of products and let us help you select the right instrument for your needs.

  1. “Ice Cream With A Side of Social Justice Has Arrived in Times Square”, May 24, 2017, http://gothamist.com/2017/05/24/ice_and_vice_times_square.php#photo-1
  2. “Do We Still Scream for Ice Cream?” July 24, 2014, http://fortune.com/2014/07/24/ice-cream-sales/
  3. “You Scream, I Scream … At the Price of Ice Cream”, August 3, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/dining/04icecream.html
  4. “The Top 15 Most Popular Ice Cream Flavors”, July 30, 2008, http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/the-top-15-most-popular-ice-cream-flavors/
  5. “Artisanal Ice Cream Is Taking Over L.A.”, http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/new-ice-cream-shops-create-freezing-frenzy-in-la
  6. “How to Measure the Color of Ice Cream”, January 16, 2015, http://mail.colourmeasure.com/knowledge-base/2015-01-16-how-to-measure-the-colour-of-ice-cream

Spectrophotometric Evaluation of Honey Color Helps Boost Appeal

The color of honey can have a significant impact on consumer perception. | Image Source: Unsplash user Sonja Langford

It’s not often that the intrigue and specter of criminal activity enter the honey world. However, when it comes to manuka honey, it’s a different story. Manuka honey, derived from the manuka tree, is one of the rarest and valuable kinds of honey in the world. Renowned for its touted medicinal properties and rich, complex flavor, manuka honey fetches significantly higher prices than standard honey, spurring the emergence of a global counterfeiting industry.

 

Approximately 1,700 tons of manuka honey are produced annually in New Zealand, “representing almost all the world’s production.” Yet 10,000 tons of honey product labeled as manuka is being sold each year around the world, with 1,800 of those tons sold in the UK alone.1 The problem has become so widespread that specialized testing methodologies have now been developed to differentiate between true manuka honey and counterfeit or adulterated versions.2 These authentication methods have the potential to save the honey industry (and consumers) millions of dollars each year. But until global implementation of such testing is realized, large-scale counterfeiting is likely to continue.

 

The primary way manuka consumers seek to identify manuka honey is by color. The product is known for its creamy to dark brown hues, hinting at its strong, distinctive flavor. As such, replicating this color is imperative to passing off counterfeits as the real deal. This may be done using a variety of methods, including adding syrups or other colorants to lighter kinds of honey to approximate the distinctive appearance of manuka. It is perhaps the strongest example of how valuable honey color can be and why color standards matter.

 

 

A Matter of Color

 

Manuka honey is not the only honey customers primarily evaluate based on color. In fact, honey color is perhaps the most important variable in guiding consumer choices, as it ostensibly hints at the flavor one can expect from the product. As Aubert and Gonnet wrote as early as 1986, “A very dark-colored honey is suggestively associated with a very flavored product, while a light-colored honey suggests more subtle and refined fragrances.”3 However, these assumptions are not always consistent. Indeed, “The link between the color and flavor of honey is often accidental.”

 

Despite the accidental nature of this link, consumers tend to have strong preferences when it comes to honey color. These are the result of both individual and cultural tastes. For example, American consumers tend to prefer lighter colored honeys while German, Swiss, and Austrians often prefer darker varieties.4 This, however, may be changing with the emergence of artisanal honeys and increased interest in rare and novel food products.5 Additionally, while color is not a perfect predictor of flavor, it can be an important indictor of quality. Color that deviates from expectations may indicate the intentional or unintentional addition of additives, processing errors, or contamination.

 

Honey can range from the palest white to rich amber. | Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Honey Color Scale

 

In order to evaluate honey color in a standardized way, the USDA has developed a specialized classification system consisting of seven categories, ranging from water white to dark amber.6 This color scale is used across the industry to help producers determine whether their honey is meeting aesthetic expectations as well as allowing for meaningful comparisons between product appearances. While honey color does not factor into USDA quality grading, it is an important tool for honey producers as they seek to create aesthetically desirable products that meet the demands of today’s consumers.

 

Traditionally, the color of honey has been evaluated using a Pfund color grader, a glass wedge whose color ranges from light to dark. “The honey is placed in a wedge-shaped container and compared to the scale, and the place where the color matches is measured from one end of the wedge.”7 Today, a number of companies offer their own color grading apparatuses that also rely on visual comparison of honey to color samples. These methods are inherently subjective, as factors such as ambient light, perceptual differences between observers, and even slight color variations in color grading equipment can interfere with an accurate assessment.

honey in jars
Customers in different geographic locations have different honey preferences. Image Credit: Flickr User Jason Reidy

 

Toward Objective Honey Color Analysis

 

In order to overcome the challenges posed by visual inspection, an increasing number of honey producers are turning to spectrophotometric analysis. These high-tech instruments allow you to capture objective color information to accurately determine a product’s place on the honey color scale. Additionally, this precise data may be used to ensure batch-to-batch consistency, guaranteeing that each product is of similar quality.

 

The versatile optical geometries of spectrophotometers mean that they are capable of analyzing the appearance of both liquid and solid kinds of honey. Additionally, the ability to capture both transmitted and reflected color means that spectrophotometric instrumentation makes it possible to analyze a full product range at every step of manufacturing with the same instrument. As Rachel Stothard writes, “Having a machine that can accommodate both measurements means quality analysis can be as versatile as the product.”[“How to Measure the Color of Honey”, July 16, 2015, http://www.colourmeasure.com/knowledge-base/2015-07-16-how-to-measure-the-colour-of-honey]

 

But spectrophotometers also allow you to go beyond color measurement. In addition to hue, the clarity of honey is one of the primary determinants of both visual appeal and product quality. In fact, clarity accounts for 10% of the USDA’s quality rating of filtered honey. The current classification system is based on “the apparent transparency or clearness of honey to the eye and to the degree of freedom from air bubbles, pollen grains, or other fine particles of any materials suspected in the product.” By integrating haze measurement in honey quality assessment, producers can easily determine product clarity. This information can be invaluable in identifying problematic process variables as well as evaluating new process variables as you seek to improve clarity. Today’s sophisticated spectrophotometers allow you to capture both haze and color measurement with a single instrument and even with a single measurement.

 

HunterLab Quality

 

HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive range of fine spectrophotometric instruments designed to help our customers obtain the critical data they need to evaluate the quality of their products and optimize consumer appeal. Our analytical tools provide simple and accurate methods for determining honey color and haze in a variety of user-friendly formats. Contact us to learn more about our innovative spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer support services and let us help you select the perfect instrument for you.

 

  1. “Food Fraud Buzz Over Fake Manuka Honey”, August 26, 2013, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/food-fraud-buzz-over-fake-manuka-honey/news-story/e58d5d067d615b20c71bd04864f4397c
  2. “New Tests Confirm New Zealand Manuka Honey is For Real”, May 16, 2017, http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/92636284/new-tests-confirm-new-zealand-manuka-honey-is-for-real
  3. “Color Grading of Honey”, 1986, http://www.fiitea.org/foundation/files/1986/S.%20AUBERT,%20M.%20GONNET.pdf
  4. “Honey Color Facts: Plus Our Favorite Honey”, December 2, 2013, http://besthoneysite.com/honey-color/
  5. “Marketers Wax Enthusiastic Over Bees and Honey”, October 15, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/business/media/marketers-wax-enthusiastic-over-bees-and-honey.html
  6. “United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey”, May 23, 1985, http://www.honey.com/images/downloads/exhoney.pdf
  7. “The Color of Honey”, June 22, 2010, https://honeybeesuite.com/the-color-of-honey/

Measuring Color and Haze in Liquid Pharmaceuticals Protects Patient Health

 

The color of liquid medications can have a big impact on how patients perceive, experience, and take medications. | Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

Last winter, in the midst of my worst cold of the season, color-coded mediation led me astray. Dazed, I reached into my medicine cabinet and popped a blue liquid-filled capsule out of its packaging, ready to get some symptom relief and finally be able to rest. But that’s not what happened. Rather than falling into a deep sleep, I felt jittery with unwanted energy and paced around my house in the early hours of the morning, unable to stay still. Sure, my cold symptoms were held at bay, but what I needed was rest. Confused, I returned to the medicine cabinet and took a closer look at the box of cold medicine. It was then that I saw the blue capsules were for daytime while the pale yellow capsules were for nighttime, the polar opposite of my feverish assumptions. That sleepless night made me appreciate the value of logical and correct medication color more than ever before.

 

Since the 1970s, pharmaceutical companies have increasingly recognized the value of color in medications. | Image Source: Pexels user freestocks.org

The Value of Color in Pharmaceuticals

 

Until the mid-20th century, virtually all pill pharmaceuticals were white and all liquid pharmaceuticals were clear.1 But in 1975, the introduction of soft gel capsule technology made it possible to produce vibrantly colored medications for the first time and the idea took off. Today, pharmaceuticals, particularly liquid forms, come in an endless array of hues.

 

This emergence of pharmaceutical color isn’t just about arbitrary aesthetics. The color of medication matters and it matters in multiple ways:

 

Shaping Patient Perception

The color of medication can have a significant impact on the expectations consumers have regarding efficacy and performance. A 2015 study published in Food Quality and Preference found that white headache medications were perceived as the most effective by respondents, while light green medications were assumed to be the least effective. Respondents also reported that they perceived red and light red pills to be the most stimulating and they expected light blue pills to have the most pleasing taste. Some also reported that they expected red and blue pills to be harder to swallow than pills of other colors.2 As such, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly interested in creating medications that enhance consumer perception through the creative use of color.

 

Shaping Patient Experience

Not only does the color of medication affect people’s expectations, it also affects what they actually experience. As Jill Morton of Color Matters notes, “Patients respond best when color corresponds with the intended results of the medication.” For example, blue sleep medications help people achieve better quality sleep than medications of other colors, even if the ingredients are identical. Thoughtful selection of medication color as it relates to each specific medication is, therefore, paramount to optimize efficacy and create the best possible user experiences.

 

Promoting Adherence

Colors can act as visual shortcuts to identifying pharmaceuticals, helping people who have difficulties reading labels or who are dealing with multiple medications easily pick out a particular medication on sight. As the population ages and comes to depend on a growing number of daily medications, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly implementing color-coding strategies in both packaging and in the design of the drugs themselves to facilitate adherence and minimize medication errors. Researchers have also found that maintaining consistency between brand name and generic medications is critical to decreasing rates of discontinuation, putting new pressure on manufacturers of generic drugs to prioritize the aesthetics of their products.[3. If Color or Shape of Generic Pills Changes, Patients May Stop Taking Them,” July 14, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/if-color-or-shape-changes-patients-more-likely-to-stop-taking-much-needed-drugs/2014/07/14/60e687f4-0b8c-11e4-8341-b8072b1e7348_story.html ]

 

syringe with blue liquid
HunterLab’s Vista allows for simultaneous color and haze measurement, simplifying quality control procedures. | Image Source: Flickr user Sean Michael Ragan

 

Simultaneous Color and Haze Measurement

 

Liquid medications present opportunities for rich colors that enhance patient perception, experience, and adherence in ways we could not have imagined a century ago. The important roles served by these colors mean that color monitoring must be a critical component of quality control efforts throughout the manufacturing process. Spectrophotometric color measurement offers the best way of analyzing color behavior at all points of production quickly and easily. By capturing objective color data and instantly alerting you to unwanted color variation, you can ensure that only correctly colored pharmaceuticals are released into the marketplace. As a growing number of consumers come to rely on color-coding, this is essential for protecting public health and preventing medication errors as well as fortifying brand image.

 

But color is only part of the equation when it comes to liquid pharmaceuticals. Monitoring turbidity, or haze, is critical for creating medications with correct formulations and desirable physical attributes. Not only can the presence of haze point to a potentially dangerous process error such as incomplete dissolution, it can also compromise consumer confidence and cause confusion for those who rely on visual identification. As such, haze measurement is an essential part of quality control protocols. Today, advances in spectrophotometric technology allow color and haze to be analyzed together in a single measurement using revolutionary instruments such as HunterLab’s Vista. By measuring color and haze simultaneously, you can avoid time-consuming double measurements and reduce product waste. This is particularly important for those working with highly valuable, rare, or potentially hazardous materials, helping you minimize the number of samples necessary for accurate analysis and limit operator exposure to potent chemicals.

 

HunterLab Quality
HunterLab has been a leader in the field of spectrophotometry for over 60 years. Our renowned line of products has been developed in response to the needs of our customers in the pharmaceutical industry, helping us ensure that our technologies can be readily integrated into your quality control program. With the release of the HunterLab Vista, we are entering a new era of liquid color and haze measurement, opening up the door to more rapid, simple, and economical analysis. In doing so, we expand your ability to make innovative use of pharmaceutical color while safeguarding consumer health. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive range of spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer support services.

  1. “The Color of Medications”, http://www.colormatters.com/color-symbolism/the-color-of-medications
  2. “Assessing the Expectations Associated with Pharmaceutical Pill Colour and Shape”, June 2015, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095032931500138X
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