Food coloring as marketing – would you eat a gray pickle?


First it was an article in the March 30th New York Times indicating that the F.D.A. Panel is going to consider warnings for artificial food colorings. There is some evidence that food coloring is linked to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This was followed on April 2nd with an article in the same newspaper entitled ‘Colorless Food? We Blanch”

It made me realize that food coloring is nothing more than marketing. After all who would want to eat a grey pickle? From Gardiner Harris’ article – “Without the artificial coloring FD&C Yellow No. 6, Cheetos Crunchy Cheese Flavored Snacks would look like the shriveled larvae of a large insect. Not surprisingly, in taste tests, people derived little pleasure from eating them. Their fingers did not turn orange. And their brains did not register much cheese flavor, even though the Cheetos tasted just as they did with food coloring.”

“People ranked the taste as bland and said that they weren’t much fun to eat,” said Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of the university’s Food and Brand Lab.

Naked Cheetos would not seem to have much commercial future. Nor might some brands of pickles. The pickling process turns them an unappetizing gray. Dye is responsible for their robust green. Gummi worms without artificial coloring would look, like, well, muddily translucent worms. Jell-O would emerge out of the refrigerator a watery tan.”

Yum right? I was able to handle the fact that Cheetos were artificially colored and flavored and whatever else makes a Cheeto (that word looks very odd in singular form to me), the epitome of ersatz food), but pickles? Cucumbers are green so somehow I extrapolated that pickles should be green. I bet I am not alone there.

Inherently we all know that food coloring is a part of many of the processed foods we Americans have come to love. But what if all the processed foods Americans love to eat were not artificially colored? Would Americans (and people all around the world) become less fat?.

It’s no secret that color (and odor of course) is critical in making food appear appetizing. That goes for natural and unnatural foods alike. But marketing folks have to acknowledge that putting food coloring in processed foods is nothing other than advertising and salesmanship. I never really thought about it that way before.

The article did note that while there were natural colorings, they were “not as bright, cheap, or stable, as artificial colorings, which can remain vibrant years.” Now there’s a comforting thought.

Some food companies have expanded their processed-product offerings to include foods without artificial colorings. You can now buy Kool-Aid Invisible, for instance, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Organic White Cheddar Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, refuse to sell foods with artificial coloring.

Talk about your processed foods, this week Procter & Gamble sold the last of its food products – Pringles Potato Chips to Diamond foods for $ 2.3 billion. Pringles are made from potatoes that are cooked, mashed, dehydrated, and made into a dough. They are then cut out, shaped, and dried. This enables them to stay crispy and not greasy and to keep their saddle shape in the can! (At least according to the website cha-cha). Oh and BTW they are amazingly tasty if I say so myself.

In the meantime while I am not a regular consumer of Cheetos or Kool-Aid, I do like a pickle now and again with my sandwich, but every time I eat one from now on I will think about the color and how it got to be that way.

I’m not saying that food coloring should be banned. But we should all be a little more aware that processed food is truly unnatural.

Or maybe people simply don’t care?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Customer Experiences, Marketing stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Food coloring as marketing – would you eat a gray pickle?

  1. Tom says:

    With all the hair coloring, tummy tucks, boob jobs, botox, hair implants, lipstick, etc., who can blame food for being unnatural. The way mother nature intended everything to look can be a little scary.


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