More than meets the tongue

February 12, 2007

Does orange juice taste sweeter if it's a brighter orange? A new study in the March issue of the Journal of Consumer Research finds that the color of a drink can influence how we think it tastes. In fact, the researchers found that color was more of an influence on how taste was perceived than quality or price information.

"Perceptual discrimination is fundamental to rational choice in many product categories yet rarely examined in consumer research," write JoAndrea Hoegg (University of British Columbia) and Joseph W. Alba (University of Florida). "The present research investigates discrimination as it pertains to consumers' ability to identify difference—or the lack thereof—among gustatory stimuli."

Hoegg and Alba are the first to look at how individual attributes -- such as color, price, or brand -- can affect which products we prefer. The researchers manipulated orange juice by changing color (with food coloring), sweetness (with sugar), or by labeling the cups with brand and quality information. They found that though brand name influenced people's preferences for one cup of juice over another, labeling one cup a premium brand and the other an inexpensive store brand had no effect on perceptions of taste.

In contrast, the tint of the orange juice had a huge effect on the taster's perceptions of taste. As the authors put it: "Color dominated taste."

Given two cups of the same Tropicana orange juice, with one cup darkened with food coloring, the members of the researcher's sample group perceived differences in taste that did not exist. However, when given two cups of orange juice that were the same color, with one cup sweetened with sugar, the same people failed to perceive taste differences.

"It seems unlikely that our consumers deliberately eschewed taste for color as a basis for discrimination," write the authors. "Moreover, our consumers succumbed to the influence of color but were less influenced by the powerful lure of brand and price information."

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Orange, grapefruit juice for breakfast builds bones in rats

Related Stories

Antioxidants: Is the hype justified?

September 25, 2012

Twenty-five years ago the term "antioxidant" was new to the public. Today it's big business, with sales of products making antioxidant-related claims reaching $65 billion in the U.S. in 2011.

Shortfalls in carotenoid intake may impact women's health

October 5, 2010

Only about a third of American women are meeting their fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, which means they are likely missing out on potentially important breast and ovarian health benefits. Along with vitamins, ...

Recommended for you

Experts uncover hidden layers of Jesus' tomb site

October 27, 2016

In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where ...

Important ancient papyrus seized from looters in Israel

October 27, 2016

(—Eitan Klein, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has announced that an important papyrus document dated to 2,700 years ago has been seized from a group of Palestinian looters who reportedly ...

Ancient parrot fossil found in Siberia

October 26, 2016

(—A Russian paleontologist has discovered a parrot fossil uncovered in Siberia several years ago—the first evidence of parrots living in Asia. In his paper published in Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov describes ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.