Packaging Color Impacts Consumers’ Perception of Both “Healthiness” and “Taste” of Foods

  • As reported on this blog in September, FDA is considering how to redefine the term “healthy” and has requested public comments on the use of the term as a nutrient content claim on food labeling. In addition to labeling, food manufacturers also often use light colored packages to draw attention to a food products’ healthiness. However, this can be a double-edged sword, according to new research published in the Journal of Retailing.
  • The article, “Light and Pale Colors in Food Packaging: When Does This Package Cue Signal Superior Healthiness or Inferior Testiness?” reported that manipulating different aspects of real food products resulted in conflicting color/taste associations. For example, study participants that were not particularly health-conscious rated the same product in lighter colored packages as healthier, but also less tasty, even when they were allowed to taste the product. “Since human abilities are too limited to distinguish more or less healthy products by taste…healthiness evaluations were guided by package color even after the consumers had tried the product,” explained the authors in a release on the research. Although, when tasting wasn’t involved, the more health-conscious participants paid less attention to the packaging color.
  • Consumer perception of the healthiness of a food product is impacted by a number of factors, all of which food manufacturers need to take into consideration when formulating and marketing that product.