A 2013 study published in the journal Appetite found that people eat less when their pasta with marinara sauce is served on a red plate, as opposed to on a white plate. That study is just one example of recent scientific interest in how colors impact the experience of eating food. A small 2014 study of 18 participants in Australia, for example, determined that the color of a coffee mug can alter the drinker's perception of how the beverage tastes. Considering flavor qualities that included sweetness, aroma, bitterness, and quality, the researchers found that coffee in a white mug was associated with the perception of more intensity, and less sweetness, than the same coffee served in a clear mug.
What you see is what you taste:
- The researchers looked at coffee served in three different types of mugs-- white, blue, and clear. The differences among the other flavor qualities were statistically insignificant, perhaps because of the small size of the study.
- “The color of the mug really does seem to have an impact," said Oxford University researcher Charles Spence. “We found a particularly significant difference between the white mug and the clear one.”
- Color contrast and its effect on flavor intensity seem to be key in studies like these. That’s why Cadbury, for example, uses purple packaging to enhance, and maybe entice, people to buy its chocolate.