The Use of Color Measurement to Manage Consumer Perceptions of Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

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.

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Using Color Measurement to Improve Perception

The signature taste we associate with meat most likely comes from the heme protein found in animals, and this flavor can be challenging to recreate. However, we can influence taste through more than spices and proteins. Based on a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, color influences our sense of taste and may have even more influence than actual changes in flavor.

Vegan meat producers looking to improve public perception should look to color measurements to influence consumer perception of taste. If plant-based meat looks like real meat, consumers are more likely to align the taste with real meat.

While color may seem like a subjective measurement, it’s a measurable science. We perceive color based on how much a color absorbs or transmits wavelengths of light. Through equipment like spectrophotometers, researchers can identify color levels in real meat to develop consistent color formulas for plant-based products.

Spectrophotometers measure the absorbance and transmittance of color with a light source separated into different wavelengths. Each wavelength is directed at a sample, and a sensor reads how much of the wavelength is transmitted and absorbed. The spectrophotometer creates a quantitative dataset based on these measurements.

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During the development process, researchers can turn to these real meat datasets. When experimenting with color techniques, these methods can be accepted or denied based on how well they align with the dataset. With color measurement consistently involved in the development processes, plant-based meat perceptions may drastically improve in regard to taste.

Turn to HunterLab for Color Measurement Solutions

HunterLab carries a range of color measurement equipment, including benchtop and portable spectrophotometers. These tools are essential for vegan meat producers wanting to mimic the appearance of real meat. At HunterLab, we believe in advancing research across industries through color measurement. Contact us today to learn more about our products and how we can solve some of the common plant-based meat problems.