As vegan food becomes more prevalent for environmental reasons, development processes for plant-based protein need to become more advanced. While color will not change the taste of a vegan meat product, it will influence consumer perception, making color consistency vital for these foods.
Why Color Consistency Matters
Color consistency is essential in plant-based protein because it:
- Improves visual appeal: Many senses fuel the eating experience, like taste and texture. Visual appeal is just as important when communicating how enjoyable a food will be. Color consistency for plant-based meats following the right color formula will help to make the product more visually appealing to every buyer.
- Supports product success: Consumers actively use the look of the product to determine if it’s worth purchasing. When a plant-based meat is inconsistent in color, consumers are less likely to trust the product and perceive it as out-of-date or unsafe to eat. Color consistency helps consumers develop a positive perception of the product, making them more willing to purchase it repeatedly.
- Regulates the manufacturing process: Creating standards for end products is essential for streamlining the manufacturing process. When manufacturers know what color they need to achieve for plant-based protein products, they can integrate a consistent process for achieving that color. Greater regulation leads to increased efficiency.
- Streamlines quality control: Manufacturers want to deliver high-quality vegan food products to the shelves, making quality control procedures essential. Color consistency plays a role in quality control — every product should look the same. With consistent processes in place that help to repeat the same product color, quality control processes can operate smoothly.
In plant-based protein development, many researchers have uncovered beet powder as an essential ingredient for meat alternatives. This vibrant purple-red substance can create the signifying pink color we often associate with real meat, but it needs to be used strategically. Too much beet powder in meat alternatives may make the plant-based protein hot pink, and too little may lead to an unappetizing gray.
Create Quantitative Color Measurements With Spectrophotometry
Color is a measurable science, even if it seems like a subjective quality. We perceive color based on how much an object transmits and absorbs the wavelengths of light, and we can measure this transmittance and absorbance to quantify color.
Spectrophotometers achieve this measurement with a single light source separated into each individual wavelength. These different wavelengths appear as different colors. Violet light has the highest wavelength frequency, and red has the lowest.
A spectrophotometer will isolate a single wavelength and direct it at a sample. Then, a sensor will measure how much of the light is absorbed and transmitted. The colors an object transmits are the colors we see, so beet powder transmits violet and red. The spectrophotometer will create a dataset of the different wavelengths for users to understand the color makeup of a sample.
Various public surveys have revealed the general opinion of plant-based substitutes for meat. Consumers typically rank these products highly in environmental, health and animal welfare categories. Plant-based consumer demographics generally encompass those who prioritize personal health, animal rights and eco-friendly habits.
However, vegan meat products still rank low in the taste category. Consumers who prefer real meat products prioritize taste over other factors and find most brands lack the ability to recreate the signature taste of real meat. To improve public perception, manufacturers need to develop taste in their plant-based products — one way to do so is through color.
Researchers and development teams experiment with many plant-based burger ingredients to achieve the most impressive vegan meat products. After the development process, how does plant-based meat look real? Development teams rely on methods like color measurement to create the products you see on the shelves.
The process for developing plant-based protein has to consider two identifying visual factors — texture and color.
Understanding the Color of Plant-Based Meat
You may think of visual factors as something highly subjective, especially since plant-based meat replicates something so familiar. But color is the exception. While color seems like a subjective concept, the shades and hues we perceive are based on how much light an object absorbs or transmits.
Spectrophotometers are designed to measure the absorption and transmission of light wavelengths in a given object. When measuring a sample with a spectrophotometer, the device will generate a dataset based on the level of transmission and absorption for each color.
Paper and paperboard products must comply with stringent industry standards. TAPPI is an organization that provides a forum for paper industry professionals such as engineers, scientists, managers and academics to access and share knowledge and suggest process improvements regarding paper and pulp applications.
What Is TAPPI?
The Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1915 and consists of approximately 14,000 members. TAPPI’s mission is to develop and implement standards and publish technical papers to describe, measure and evaluate paper and pulp products.
The information furnished by TAPPI can guide users in their quest to improve their technical operations and increase efficiency. It can also help them implement innovative procedures that significantly improve processes and enhance product durability and consistency.
Examples of the peer-reviewed journals prepared and published by TAPPI include the Journal of Pulp Paper and Science and the Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics.
Ultraviolet (UV) controls are an essential component of color measurement. By using UV technology, you can measure how your products look in variable brightnesses and degrees of sunlight. From bright summer days to dimmer indoor environments, UV controls allow you to ensure you see your product exactly how your customers perceive it. UV controls are the only way to gain accurate color measurements across all variables and possible environments.
What Is UV Control?
UV control helps analysts and manufacturers obtain a more accurate color reading of their product samples under any lighting condition. UV control lights can simulate daylight conditions using the “daylight illuminant,” otherwise known as CIE standard luminant D65. With a spectrophotometer, you can consistently simulate these daylight conditions in a lab and make the light source match that of a clear northern or western European day.
To reach D65 daylight conditions, labs use control options such as calibrated fluorescent standards, motorized UV filters and xenon light sources. This equipment drastically improves your color measurement accuracy when testing fluorescent whitening agent (FWA)-enhanced test samples. Spectrophotometers are used as a tool for simulating UV daylight conditions.
Bandwidth is an essential component to measuring spectral resolution accurately and determining the objective scientific properties of color. Spectrophotometers rely on effective bandwidth measurements to accurately give wavelength readings and assist with product quality assurance, forensic analysis, biochemical testing and more.
Effective bandwidth allows analysts to measure wavelengths of testing samples by isolating narrow bands of radiation to use as interference filters. Spectrophotography relies on effective bandwidth to test color wavelength objectively. Because radiation cannot isolate single wavelengths from a continuum of sources, a wavelength selector uses nominal wavelength and effective bandwidth to determine the wavelength’s true properties. Effective bandwidth is most easily defined as the width of a sample’s radiation at half of its maximum output.
Why Is Effective Bandwidth Important?
Without effective bandwidth, spectrophotometers cannot perform accurate measurements. The ideal wavelength selector has a narrow effective bandwidth and a heavy throughput of radiation. With a high radiation throughput, more photons can pass through your wavelength selector and produce a strong signal with little background noise, which is essential for easily reading your spectrophotometric results. By decreasing effective bandwidth, you can improve resolution at the price of increasing background noise. Essentially, larger effective bandwidth gives a smooth and noiseless signal at the expense of sacrificing resolution.