Food Companies Are Changing the Color Of Your Food, Because Marketing

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Some food companies, to reinvent themselves, are now adding rather unusual colors to your favorite foods — because marketing.

For example, most recently, McDonald's in China unleashed two new sandwiches with red and green buns to celebrate the release of 'Angry Birds.' Similarly, last Halloween, Burger King joined in the holiday spirit by introducing its "Halloween Whopper," a burger topped with black buns previously infused with A1 sauce.  Some food companies have done the same for charities and cancer awareness by dying hamburger buns pink for October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What a time to be alive.

Marketers are acutely aware that consumers are influenced by the color of their food, at times even overriding their taste buds to try a strangely colored concoction. But some, no doubt, will have a strong aversion to these unusual colors, and who can blame them? Our brains and taste buds have been conditioned to associate the color of a particular food item with taste. Meat is gong to be dark brown — always. Ketchup is red (aside from the day Heinz crossed the line when the company went from normal to wacky with its release of many vibrant colors of ketchup). Bread will be white or wheat, or — if you're fancy, it will be marble rye. But that's as far as we'll go. Many of us can't stomach the thought of eating green meat or pink buns, even though we know food coloring is safe. Though this sort of marketing has undoubtedly seen incremental sales volume increase, frankly, it's not a great strategy for a sustainable brand. Fads are fleeting, so why mess with a good thing? Consumers already have a hard enough time deciding. Recently, I ordered pasta colored from Cephalopod ink — or squid ink, in a nice Italian restaurant, and that was still a tad weird. Delicious, but weird.

While some are trying to add a little pizzaz to your meal, elsewhere, companies are pledging to remove artificial food coloring from their products — because marketing.

Nestle, Pizza Hut, Subway, and Noodles & Co., to name a few, have all — at one point or another — announced the removal of food coloring and preservatives in their signature dishes by the end of this year, to 'appeal to the more health-conscious consumer.' Keyword: appeal. A move based on marketing, not sound science.

We know that color plays a role in how we look at food. Even sound, as we've talked about in our recent video (see below), can impact the way we perceive and taste certain foods. But the jury is out on purple ketchup, green meat, and fiery red buns; Is nothing sacred anymore???