Instrumental Color Analysis Ensures Military Textiles Manufacturers Meet Berry Amendment Standards

US Soldiers
U.S. Soldiers celebrating at the Armed Forces Classic game day in South Korea. Image Credit: Flickr User USAG – Humphreys

The U.S. military and uniformed services purchase their textiles based on specifications that have been enshrined in a series of laws1. The Berry Amendment and the Kissell amendment detail exactly what fabrics and colors are suitable, for everything from camouflage and dress uniforms to tarps and vehicle coverings. For U.S. textile manufacturers, this presents an opportunity to lock down steady contracts, whose requirements do not change as often as those of the ever-evolving world of fashion. With approximately 31,000 line items purchased every year, these contracts can provide a significant amount of revenue for textile makers. Companies manufacturing textiles for U.S. allies must meet similar legal requirements and are presented with similar opportunities.

This is a double-edged sword, however, requiring rigorous quality control systems from manufacturers. If a batch of textiles should fail to meet the standards prescribed by law, it will be rejected and manufacturers must eat the cost of materials, labor, and delivery. Even more alarming, repeated failures could cause the Defense Logistics Agency to end the contract. This would have an immediate, chilling effect on a company’s operations. Fortunately for manufacturers, this is a simpler standard to meet than the whims of designers. It’s an open book test; all manufacturers need to do to ensure they meet requirements is look up the specifications and test their products before delivery to make sure they match. The requirements should be included with the contract paperwork, and if not, will be available on request.

Soldiers hiding in brush
Military textiles like camouflage are designed to protect warfighters and help them blend into their surroundings. Image Credit: Flickr User Program Executive Office Soldier

Quality Control Testing Is Essential in Military Textile Production

Testing, instead of simply relying on a company’s process, is necessary because of the difficulties of properly coloring military fabrics. The military uses a wide range of specialty materials, many of which are not found in other industries or for average consumer use. These materials can be flame retardant or can provide protection against chemical and biological attacks. They can be made of synthetic fibers, natural fibers, or a blend. These unique properties of military textiles affect the fastness of colorants. Each different material requires a different coloration process and mix of materials. As new materials are tested and approved, even companies with longer-term contracts with the military must adjust their processes to make sure they are meeting specifications.

 

Military Officers
Military textiles include more than just camouflage. Image credit: Flickr user See-ming Lee

 

Spectrophotometers Objectively Assess Textile Color

The best way for manufacturers to meet color specifications is to test fabric samples with a reflectance spectrophotometer. These instruments objectively assess the color of opaque objects to a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. In a quality control laboratory, a technician simply places the sample, presses a button on the instrument, and notes whether the sample’s color lies within an established tolerance standard. It’s an easy process, made simpler by the precise color standards set forth by the military. Manufacturers know what color their fabrics need to be, and a spectrophotometer can tell them if their fabrics are that color. This mitigates color quality risk entirely.

A few practical issues can arise when measuring fabrics, that should be taken into consideration. First, fabrics aren’t rigid, and may accidentally pillow into the measurement port, throwing off the measurement. Technicians should be sure to secure fabrics so this does not happen. Next, coloration can occur inconsistently over the breadth of a fabric. Technicians should measure multiple areas on a sample to ensure they all fall within tolerance standards. Modern HunterLab spectrophotometers are able to easily average measurements together, aiding this process. Finally, should the material be gauzy or otherwise nearly transparent, a backing will be required. This backing should always be the same color, and the instrument should be calibrated to take this into effect.

To learn more about how spectrophotometers can improve your textile business, or if you have questions about the spectrophotometer you’re currently using, contact our friendly, professional staff today. We’re happy to help.

  1.  “Textiles and our military,” 2016, http://www.ncto.org/facts-figures/textiles-and-our-military/

How Wineries Use Wine Turbidity to Measure Vintage Quality and Save on Expenses

                  Have you ever noticed any sediment in your red wine? Photo Credit: Pexels User Timur Saglambilek

Have you ever uncorked an aged Bordeaux, and found a thick pile of sediment at the bottom of the bottle? Although this gritty sediment looks unappetizing, it’s actually a set of harmless compounds that play a major role in aged wines. The solid sediment in the wine mixes with the fermented juice over time, forming new flavor compounds that make the wine taste better with age. As these compounds expire, they sink to the bottom of the bottle.

Low wine turbidity makes the wine appear clearer, but it can also negatively impact its ability to age through the decades if it’s filtered too much. By comparison, wines with higher turbidity can sometimes age longer in a cellar, but they often appear unappetizing to casual drinkers. The winery’s goal is to find the ideal balance between these two factors, and many do so by measuring their wine turbidity in advance.

 

Wine Turbidity Varies by Style

Some winemakers prefer high turbidity in their wines, whereas others prefer there to be hardly any sediment at all. For instance, an organic, or “biodynamic,” winery will try to retain as much hazy turbidity as possible when they bottle their wines because they believe that interfering with the wine’s natural state will negatively impact its flavors. Consumers also expect a biodynamic wine1 to have some haziness and a significant amount of sediment since it’s a sign that the winery didn’t try to filter out the sediment before bottling. In some cases, high turbidity makes the wine appear more appetizing for certain customers, rather than less.

However, most wineries choose to filter out as much sediment as possible. A winery that wants their wines to appeal to mainstream, casual drinkers will want to make their wines appear crystal clear before bottling. An estimated 90 percent2 of all wine is consumed within its first year of purchase. Because these wines aren’t designed to age well over time, there’s no reason to have excess sediment in the bottle — the compounds won’t have enough time to expire and sink to the bottom of the container. This is why the majority of wineries choose to filter, or “fine,” their wines to create a liquid that is virtually clear.

Glasses of white wine
It’s important to ensure that wine clarity is constant. Photo Credit: Flickr User Didriks

Measuring Wine Turbidity Prevents Unexpected Expenses

You can’t tell how much sediment is in a wine just by looking at it. To start, the sediment is usually well mixed with the rest of the liquid, and it can take as long as 10 years3 for this hidden sediment to separate from the rest of the wine. Instead, wineries use a color and haze spectrophotometer to determine how clear the liquid is, according to Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) measurements. Knowing the wine’s NTU reading in advance allows wineries to estimate how many times the wine will have to go through a filter, and how much this process will cost. For instance, in most mainstream wines designed for immediate consumption, an NTU reading of less than 1.04 is considered relatively clear. However, if that reading were greater than 1.0, the winery would likely have to filter the wine for a second time before bottling.

If a winery uses a third party for filtering, as is often the case, that third party company might charge more for wines that have high turbidity. A thick, hazy wine can quickly block the filters on a machine, causing significant damage to the equipment. Many filtering companies won’t even accept wines that are cloudy. When wineries measure their wine’s turbidity in advance, they can take extra steps to clear out the wine before it reaches a third party filter company. Many wineries “fine” their wines with special agents5, such as volcanic clay, gelatin, and egg whites. These agents can grip onto large pieces of sediment to prepare the wine for further filtering. Knowing this in advance saves wineries hidden filtering fees, and prevents costly equipment damage.

red wine being poured into glass
Spectrophotometers can help ensure brand consistency. Photo credit: Flickr User shreddaily101

Ideal Turbidity Could Mean Higher Quality Vintages

A spectrophotometer like Vista can give advanced warning to wineries who want to avoid unexpected filtering costs, however, it’s also useful for wineries who want to craft the best-tasting wine. The only thing to keep in mind is that this instrument works best for near-transparent liquids, like white wines, rather than thicker, more opaque red wines. Other instruments, like the UltraScan VIS, can handle a wider range of wine styles, allowing wineries to get an accurate read on turbidity.

Critics pay close attention to a wine’s clarity and balance of tannins, both of which are impacted by the wine’s turbidity. A wine with less sediment will taste more pleasant in its youth because it won’t have as many bitter tannins mixed in with the fruit. A wine with more sediment will taste slightly bitter or astringent in its youth, and these flavors will mellow out over time as the sediment naturally separates. How much sediment a winery chooses to leave in the wine will depend on whether they want their wines to impress drinkers early, or whether long term aging is their goal.

To accomplish this, a winery can test samples for turbidity throughout the winemaking process. Sphere instruments such as the UltraScan VIS can detect the exact NTU reading for wine samples, giving wineries the opportunity to tweak these measurements before bottling. This instrument, in particular, is capable of measuring liquids that run from crystal clear to opaque, making it the perfect solution for any wine style. Wineries can use it to measure turbidity in their clear white wines, and also use it to measure thicker, opaque wines like Syrah. Having the freedom to switch between different wine styles and ideal turbidity readings using one piece of equipment is essential for wineries, especially those that bottle tens of thousands of gallons of wine every year.

  1. Getting into Biodynamic wine,” 2014, http://winefolly.com/review/biodynamic-wine-guide/
  2. “Six things you probably don’t know about wine,” https://www.winecurmudgeon.com/six-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-wine/
  3. “Ask Dr. Vinny,” http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/42951
  4. “The filterability of wine,” 2013, http://www.wineland.co.za/the-filterability-of-wine/
  5. “A clearer understanding of fining agents,” 2007, https://winemakermag.com/26-a-clearer-understanding-of-fining-agents

Spectrophotometers for Measuring Color Guarantee Gin Quality Control

One of my cousins has been a bartender for long enough that at family gatherings our relatives have stopped asking when she’s going back to nursing school. She never did seem that interested in the medical profession. Works for me. While I might ask someone else for help if I needed the Heimlich maneuver, I’d unhesitatingly go to this cousin for advice on cocktails. Seeking to better her knowledge of her chosen profession, she’s a regular on the craft distillery tour circuit. She’ll even plan trips to far-flung cities to get a taste of the gins, whiskeys, rums, piscos, baijiu’s, and sometimes moonshine!

She and I both like gin, and lacking any true knowledge of the subject on my own, I follow her advice on gin brands unfailingly. This last Thanksgiving, she surprised me by changing course, telling me to avoid a gin we’d been drinking together for years. “They’re no good anymore,” she said. “It’s been coming out cloudy.” As always, I took her advice.

hard alcohol
Customers expect crystal clear, water white gin. Image Credit: Flickr User Graeme Maclean (CC BY 2.0)

 

Gin Manufacturers Depend on Color Quality Control to Ensure Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is important for gin manufacturers. Distilleries distinguish themselves by their proprietary mix of botanicals1 and distillation process. So when a distillery accidentally deviates from its formula, it loses the essential essence of its brand. This can happen through variation in raw materials, such as botanicals or neutral spirits. Botanicals can vary widely2, with different suppliers, crop year, or batch. Cloudiness can occur in distilled spirits3 from imperfectly filtered water, fusel oils, or the use of activated carbon filters. As long as these differences are noticeable to consumers, they have the potential to cost a company business.

Companies who produce inconsistent gin stand to lose sales. Customers who’ve developed a loyalty to that particular gin blend will be disappointed and may consider trying a different company’s product. Similarly, new customers who notice unexpected colors or cloudiness may not even give that gin a chance. Either way, gin companies are losing more than a single sale when QA is not bulletproof. According to Gin Foundry’s 2016 survey4 62% of customers expect to always be asked what type of gin they’d like in their cocktail at the bar. In addition, 56% of customers always ask for a particular brand of gin when ordering gin and tonic. Both of these numbers rose from 2015’s survey. These numbers are strong indications that customers buy gin based on established preferences. Alcohol purchases can be reflexive, the result of habit, and so customers who choose a different brand may stick with that brand for life.

 

Transmission Spectrophotometers Objectively Assess the Color of Gin

For these reasons, color and haze quality control is essential for gin manufacturers. That’s why manufacturers employ transmission spectrophotometers and haze measurement instruments to detect any deficiencies before any batch is bottled and shipped. These instruments objectively assess the color and haze of transparent liquids, like gin.

Aviation Gin
Quality control is as essential for small craft distilleries as for large manufacturers. Image Credit: Flickr User Brandon O’Connor (CC BY 2.0)

Simple Instruments Allow Easy Workflow Integration

While it may seem complicated, in practice the operation of these instruments is simple. The first step is calibration. Every eight hours, the instrument is calibrated, to ensure measurement accuracy. In modern machines, like HunterLab’s Vista, calibration is accomplished with a single touch of a button.

Once calibrated, technicians select the standard they wish to measure samples against. For a company that only makes one product—gin—there will only be one standard to choose from. Companies distilling more than one liquor can choose from a number of standards saved in the instrument’s memory.

From there, technicians place a sample of gin in the instrument’s sample compartment. The instrument measures the sample and displays the results as compared to the selected standard on its screen. If the sample’s results are within the company’s tolerance, it passes the test. All of this takes about three seconds.

With earlier instruments, these steps would need to be repeated twice: once to measure color with the transmission spectrophotometer, and again to measure haze with a separate instrument. However, as both measurements can be assessed using the same principles, it isn’t necessary to perform them with two separate instruments. HunterLab’s Vista can measure both color and haze simultaneously. This saves distillers time and frees up benchtop space in their quality control labs.

The ease of use, small footprint, and cost-efficiency of HunterLab’s Vista makes it an ideal choice for gin manufacturers looking to improve their quality assurance processes. To learn more about how Vista can help keep your gin clear and on-color, contact our friendly, knowledgeable sales professionals today.

  1. “The Production of Gin,” 2017, http://www.ginvodka.org/history/ginProduction.asp
  2. “A day in the life of a quality control officer,” 2015, https://talesofthecocktail.com/in-depth/day-life-quality-control-officer
  3. “Cloudy Spirit,” 2015, http://homedistiller.org/distill/dtw/cloudy
  4. “GINFOGRAPHIC 2016,” 2016, http://www.ginfoundry.com/insights/ginfographic-2016/

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

Blow molders Need Transmittance Spectrophotometers for Efficient Color Quality Control

We’ve all walked into a store on a hot summer day looking for a cold and refreshing beverage. When I lived in Canada and would visit the US, I was always floored by the wide variety of soda flavors to choose from on the shelf. Ultimately, beverage color played a role in my final selection, but mostly it was the bottle color that really swung my vote. Bottle color is essential to the brands of established companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi1 and for up and coming companies that want to establish themselves.

 

7UP
The characteristic green bottle of 7UP makes it easy to identify and suggests a certain flavor. Image Credit: Flickr User El Gran Dee (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Color Consistency Is Essential for Blow Molders

 

Not only is the color of the bottle a major feature of manufacturers’ brands, but its transparency must also be consistent. This means that it is integral that blow mold manufacturers produce consistently colored products. Some people, like myself, associate bottle color with the taste that we think matches that particular shade. Others with a more sensitive palate actually can taste the long-term effects of UV exposure on their beverages2. This means that if your product is sensitive to certain wavelengths, the color and transparency of your bottle will affect your product’s shelf life.  

 

The need for large-scale consistency dictates the implementation of instrumental color measurement devices, like spectrophotometers. These instruments eliminate the guesswork that human observers must rely on. Spectrophotometers can also record data more quickly and accurately than human observers, by uploading it directly to a computer or network library. Because of these gains in efficiency, most blow molders use spectrophotometers for their color QC.

 

blow molded mouthwash bottles
Some manufacturers prefer transparent bottles, to showcase the color of their products. Image Credit: Flickr User Jeff Kimmel (CC BY 2.0)

 

Opaque and Transparent Plastics Require Different Color Measurement Techniques

 

The coloration process that creates opaque and transparent preforms can be inaccurate, which is why manufacturers need color quality control in the first place. A color is injected into preforms in the form of plastic pellets during the molded process. Creating an opaque plastic is a matter of controlling the amount and concentration of pellets added. To create a transparent or translucent clear or colored plastic, a manufacturer adds much less color than an opaque plastic requires. Color inaccuracy can result from differences in the raw pellets, temperature fluctuations during the molding process, or the uneven dispersion of pellets.

 

Spectrophotometers Save Blow Mold Manufacturers Time and Money

 

We at HunterLab have over 60 years of experience creating instruments to help you optimize your QA and QC processes. For blow molders, we recommend using the UltraScan Vis spectrophotometer. To learn more about how we can address your color measurement needs, contact our friendly, knowledgeable sales force today.

 

  1. “Antique Cola and Pop Bottles,” http://www.collectorsweekly.com/bottles/cola
  2. “Physics and Green Beer Bottles,” https://www.wired.com/2013/03/physics-and-green-beer-bottles/

Food Processors Rely on Spectrophotometers to Ensure Color Consistency Despite Variations in Natural Ingredients

Every parent of a college student will understand that the student’s diet is probably heavy on pizza, ramen noodles, and macaroni & cheese. Parents who are concerned about this diet might take some comfort from Kraft’s recent decision to phase out artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from its ubiquitous mac & cheese products1. Yet any food processor’s decision to move toward natural ingredients will pose challenges that, if not handled properly, can affect the appearance, taste, and overall quality of food products.

 

                                                    

Kraft dinner
The familiar orange-yellow elbow macaroni and cheese is a welcome site to many college students. And it’s always the same color. Image Source: Flickr User Aidan Morgan (CC BY 2.0)

 

To maintain consistent product color, a food processing company transitioning to natural food dyes and ingredients must adjust processing conditions in real time. Consider this challenge in the context of butter. Milk from dairy cows that are raised on artificial feed generates butter that is pale or white. Butter that starts out as milk from natural grass-fed cows is bright yellow2. So, a food processor that uses grass-fed butter is adding higher levels of yellow pigmentation to its food products. More importantly, that level varies with natural changes in the cow’s diet. The same is true for cheeses and other products that start out as milk. The challenge is compounded as other natural ingredients are utilized.

 

Food Processors Make Real-Time Adjustments for Color Consistency

 

The final color of any food product is a function of the product’s ingredients, the chemical environment (e.g. acidity) at various stages of the processing cycle, and the processing conditions themselves (e.g. temperature)3. Food processors already implement controls over environment and conditions but also need to implement controls to respond to the greater variability of natural ingredients. Extra adjustments are needed to smooth out color variations that result from natural ingredient variations.

 

With macaroni and cheese, for example, a processor might adopt a natural annatto extract in place of synthetic yellow dyes. Annatto is a natural yellow colorant that is derived from the seeds of bush. Its yellow to orange color results from a blend of naturally-occurring compounds, including carotenoids, bixin, and norbixin4. By altering the amount of annatto added in the process, the processor can alter the final color of their mac & cheese. To make these changes, however, the processor needs a simple and economical tool to measure the product’s color during the processing cycle.

 

Annato seeds
Annato seeds in their natural form. Image credit: Flickr User Jonathan Stonehouse (CC BY 2.0)

 

Spectrophotometers Measure Food Color Against Objective Standards

 

Food processors test ingredients before using them in actual processing conditions. Natural ingredients can be within specifications yet still exhibit significant variability that will affect downstream color. Line operators and technicians can use portable spectrophotometers to assess color differences at multiple processing stages. These instruments provide objective color analysis quickly and reliably by measuring light reflected from opaque objects. Based on this analysis, any necessary adjustments to color can be implemented.

 

HunterLab has long been an industry leader in providing spectrophotometers that are uniquely adaptable to food processing industry challenges. The company produces a range of both benchtop and portable devices that have different measurement modalities for every specific phase of a food processing cycle. Our product specialists can show you how to use our instruments to maintain a perfect end product color regardless of ingredient specification variability. Please contact us for more information about our color measurement and food industry expertise.

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/

Spectrophotometers Identify Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals With Color Measurement

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 estimated that the global market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals generated $431 billion in gross annual revenues1 for purveyors of those fake products. Since then, WHO has stopped estimating the counterfeit industry’s revenues because of the difficulties in tracking fake prescription drugs. WHO is quick to note that the counterfeit pharmaceutical problem is not confined to developing countries with lax regulations. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized more than $73 million worth of counterfeit drugs, and since 2010, the FDA has tracked and recorded more than 1,400 incidents of adverse reactions caused by counterfeit drugs2.   

 

pills
Counterfeit pharmaceutical products run rampant through internet pharmacies. Image Credit: Flickr User Carlos Lowry (CC BY 2.0)

 

The prevalence of internet pharmacies has elevated the problem to near epic proportions. WHO estimates that more than half of all pharmaceuticals sold over the Internet are counterfeit3. Consumers that buy cheap drugs online, even when their purchases are made from internet pharmacies that appear in every respect to be legitimate, are taking great risks with their own health and safety. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals might be compounded from ingredients that range from inert to harmful or adulterated. Consumers cannot be faulted for attempting to save money on prescription drugs, but they are ill-equipped to detect counterfeit products and inevitably they rely on manufacturers and regulatory authorities to keep the fakes off of the market.

 

At an extreme, regulators and pharmaceutical companies can implement plans to test batches of pharmaceuticals at various stages of the global supply chain with gas chromatography and other sophisticated technologies4. These technologies will distinguish genuine products from knockoffs, but their broad implementation is expensive and impractical. Moreover, local regulatory agencies and shipping inspectors will not have the resources or access to complex analytical tools to implement the kind of widespread screenings that are required to snag every counterfeit pharmaceutical product. A more practical option is to use portable spectrophotometers for rapid early screening of both the pharmaceuticals and their packaging as the first line of defense against counterfeit drugs.

 

Tylenol
Pharmaceutical companies can impede counterfeiters by publishing precise color profiles of their labels. Image Credit: Flickr User Austin Kirk (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color and Pharmaceutical Packaging

 

Legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers use advanced packaging with holograms, bar codes, and other features to confirm that the enclosed products are real. Packaging color is as critical an indicator of legitimacy as these advanced features.

 

Consumers generally avoid products with inconsistent or dubious packaging5, but consumers that purchase pharmaceuticals from internet pharmacies do not have the luxury of picking and choosing. Counterfeiters might take advantage of this by using cheaper printing and packaging materials. This leaves an opening for a legitimate manufacturer to publish a color profile for its own packaging. Screeners and regulators can then use portable spectrophotometers to measure a pharmaceutical product’s packaging for comparison against a manufacturer’s standard color profile. Any differences will be a first marker of counterfeiting that the regulator can then use to flag a batch for more advanced testing and verification.

 

Drug Color Consistency

 

Counterfeiters are becoming more adept at replicating the appearance of legitimate drugs, but subtle color differences between real and fake drugs are still a strong indication of a counterfeit product. Strict FDA standards on drug production result in products that have identical colors and appearances from batch to batch. Even more so than with pharmaceutical packaging, manufacturers can create color profiles for each of their products. They can then use portable spectrophotometers for quality control and assurance during a manufacturing process. Regulators can also use these devices to sample drug products in supply chains in order to weed out any products that are outside of that profile. Without their own spectrophotometers, counterfeiters will be unable to precisely match the exact profiles of the drugs they are emulating. Certain spectrophotometers can detect differences on UV wavelengths, which would be invisible to the naked eye. This makes color profiles even more difficult to fake without instrumental aid.

 

Using HunterLab’s Devices to Detect Counterfeit Drugs

 

HunterLab has long been at the forefront of providing appearance and color testing instrumentation to the pharmaceutical industry.  To measure both opaque substances at UV wavelengths, regulators can use the UltraScan Vis or Pro.

To learn more about which instrument would be ideal for your production process, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

  1. “Deadly fake Viagra: Online pharmacies suspected of selling counterfeit drugs,” 2015,  http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/health/counterfeit-medications/
  2. “Counterfeit Drugs Are Flooding the Nation’s Pharmacies And Hospitals,” 2016, http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2016/counterfeit-prescription-drugs-rx.html
  3. “Rise in online pharmacies sees counterfeit drugs go global,” 2015, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)00394-3/fulltext?rss%3Dyes
  4. “Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugs,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202524/
  5. “Combat counterfeiting with packaging design and color consistency,” 2016, http://www.packagingdigest.com/packaging-design/combat-counterfeiting-with-packaging-design-and-color-consistency-2016-02-17

Mouthwash Manufacturers Rely on Spectrophotometers for Color Quality Control to Ensure Brand Consistency

The color of mouthwash has nothing to do with its efficacy. It is not the byproduct of any medicinal ingredients or flavors, nor do mouthwashes of different colors vary in substance. So why do mouthwash manufacturers bother adding coloration to their recipes? Branding.

 

mouthwash on shelf in store
What color does your mouth smell like? Image Credit: Flickr User danjo paluska (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color Is Inextricable From Brand for Mouthwash Companies

 

The bright blues, greens, yellow, and purples of various mouthwashes are intended to differentiate similar products in the eyes of consumers. While they may have the same active ingredients, differently colored mouthwashes look like separate products. The colors of mouthwash brands are also linked to unique flavors and scents. This affects customer choice in a number of ways.

 

For new customers, bold, eye-catching colors attract attention and lend an impression of potency. Particularly strong colors can be linked unconsciously with strong effects. Also, most people have preferences for certain colors (I happen to like yellow and green). Without more compelling reasons to prefer a particular brand, customers may simply pick the color they like the best. Once they’ve picked this color, unless the product is unsatisfactory for some reason—which is doubtful, as one is much the same the other—they’re likely to pick the same color the next time. This preference will be reinforced by any perceived or actual differences in flavor or scent.

Swish mouthwash
Customers develop loyalties towards particular mouthwash colors. Image Credit: Flickr User the impulsivebuy (CC BY 2.0)

 

Quality Control Processes Assure Mouthwash Brand Consistency

 

This effect is lost if manufacturers alter the color of their products, or if their colors lack consistency from batch to batch. For these reasons, manufacturers employ stringent color quality control procedures at their production facilities. Samples of each batch, or enough batches to generate statistical reliability, are measured in test labs before the mouthwash is bottled. Measurement is done at this stage to prevent any extra loss of revenue in bottling materials, bottling machine energy, or delivery costs. Any variation detected at the test lab stage can be corrected by mixing in additional colorants while the mouthwash is still in the vat.

 

For this purpose, most manufacturers have long since jettisoned human observers. Even when comparing mouthwash samples to established standards, human observers are subjective in their analysis of color. Different observers can see different colors. Also, the same observer can see different colors based on lighting, sample size, and even mood. Given the large volumes of mouthwash produced, this subjectivity can result in inconsistent coloration, perhaps even in bottles sitting next to each other on the shelf. As color is such an important factor in consumer choice, this inconsistency could not be allowed to persist.

 

mouthwash
Color consistency is important when producing large volumes of mouthwash. Image Credit: Flickr User Jae-sun Gim (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Transmission Spectrophotometers Offer Reliable, Objective Color Analysis

 

As a result, manufacturers have turned to spectrophotometers, objective color analysis instruments, to measure their mouthwash. These instruments report color results numerically, and their results are precise. This prevents any inconsistently colored batches from leaving the vat. Not every spectrophotometer measures color in the same way, which is why you should use a transmission spectrophotometer to accurately measures transparent liquids like mouthwash.

 

With over six decades of experience developing spectrophotometers for transparent liquids, HunterLab has engineered a series of solutions ideal for the mouthwash industry. For companies that only manufacture transparent liquids, like mouthwash, and wish to save space in their laboratory the Vista color and haze transmission spectrophotometer is a sound color measurement solution. Much smaller than earlier spectrophotometers, and more affordable, Vista is a top-of-the-line solution for transmission color analysis. For companies testing the color of mouthwash and other opaque liquids or solids, the UltraScan series of spectrophotometers is capable of reflectance and transmittance measurement. While larger than Vista, UltraScan spectrophotometers eliminate the need for a separate instrument to test the color quality of the company’s opaque products. To learn more about which instrument would be ideal for your production process, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

 

Spectrophotometric Color Measurement Assures Milk Quality and Safety

My great-grandfather owned and operated a small dairy farm in Vermont, and so I grew up hearing stories about dairy cows. His father before him had owned the farm, and so he grew up milking, feeding, and otherwise tending the dozen or so cows they kept at any given time. Through all this, he apparently got to know these cows very, very well—the way a sommelier knows their wine, the way a falconer knows their birds. He would, of course, drink their milk every day, and would amaze my grandmother by drinking a glass and saying things like “Buttercup’s in a good mood today,” or “Dandelion’s been out in the brambles, you should check her for ticks.” According to my grandmother, the old man’s milk-sense was never, ever wrong. If you gave him a cup of Ballerina’s milk and told him it was Bluebird’s, he’d take one look at it, then tell you-you were a liar. The man knew his milk.

 

cow
Buttercup says moo. Image Credit: Flickr User U.S. Department of Agriculture (CC BY 2.0)

 

Milk Color Factors into Consumer Choice and Brand Identity

 

Dairy farming isn’t the same as it used to be. There aren’t many dairy farmers left who can tell the cow from the milk. But what hasn’t changed is that a good look at a glass of milk can tell a person a great deal about that milk’s properties. Food safety regulations have proliferated prodigiously since my great-grandfather’s time. As a result, putting milk to the test isn’t just a farmer’s pastime anymore. It’s an essential element of the quality control processes of any milk producer.

 

The color of milk is important to producers for a number of reasons. Most directly, milk color is an important factor in consumer’s buying decisions. If a milk appears unusually colored to a customer, they will likely conclude that something has gone wrong with it and choose a different carton. This, then, becomes a question of brand identity as well. Customers who notice off-color milk from a specific brand will be less likely to purchase from the same producer at a later date. One bad carton of milk can have a ripple effect, disturbing a producer’s sales on an ongoing basis.

 

jug of milk
Off-color milk can drive consumers away from your brand. Image Credit: Flickr User Health Gauge (CC BY 2.0)

 

Instrumental Color Measurement Detects Milk Spoilage

 

Furthermore, discolored milk is indicative of age and spoilage1. As milk sits in storage, even at refrigerator temperatures, psychrotrophic bacteria that survived pasteurization can multiply and spoil the milk. Color can also indicate acidification2 of stored milk, as well as the effects of light-induced oxidation.

 

Severe cases of discoloration can be detected by the naked eye. Moderate discoloration can be detected by the trained eye, like my great-grandfather’s. The beginning stages of discoloration are subtle enough to go unnoticed until the spoilage has become more advanced. No matter what the stage, human observation is subjective. This poses difficulties when creating scales and standards to assess the changes in milk color.

 

As a result, many milk producers have turned to spectrophotometers. These color measurement instruments can quickly and accurately identify a milk sample’s color. Then they assign it a numerical value that can be repeatedly compared to an established standard or other samples. This allows for a greater level of control over the quality of milk products. Even companies operating facilities on opposite ends of the country can be certain their milk all measures up to the same, established standard.

 

Reflectance Spectrophotometry Ideal for Milk Measurement

 

While many methods of spectroscopy exist—raman, NIR, and transmission, to name a few—the milk’s color can be verified with one of the simplest: reflectance. Exactly like it sounds, a reflectance spectrophotometer bounces light off an opaque liquid (or solid) and measures the wavelengths of the light that is reflected back. Doing so permits an operator to observe color on many scales, including CIE L*a*b*. Milk samples measured this way can be compared to pre-programmed standards. This allows operators to quickly and simply discover any deviations from the appropriate color.

 

With over six decades of experience developing reflectance spectrophotometers to measure opaque liquids, HunterLab has honed its products to precisely match the needs of milk producers. Not only do our instruments generate fast, accurate measurement results, our sample holders are designed to accommodate your vials and cuvettes. To learn more about how spectrophotometers can help milk producers keep their milk up to standard, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

 

 

  1. “Characteristics of Milk,” http://www4.ncsu.edu/~adpierce/u03_characteristics_milk.pdf
  2. “Color Changes of UHT Milk During Storage,” 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705541/
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