Tasting the rainbow in new product development

by Keith Nunes
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Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and Skittles
Colors have power over consumer perception and interest in new food and beverage products.
 

LAS VEGAS — Skittles manufacturer Mars Inc. may have been ahead of its time when it started using the tag line “taste the rainbow.” Social media and the success of such phenomena as Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino are showing product developers the power colors may have on consumer perception and interest in new food and beverage products. There is, however, a catch, said Jennifer Zegler, global food and drink analyst with the market research firm Mintel International. The ingredients used to make the colors must be sourced from raw materials perceived as clean and simple.

Jennifer Zegler, Mintel
Jennifer Zegler, global food and drink analyst with Mintel International

Ms. Zegler said during a June 26 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and exposition that Mintel analysts are hearing more from consumers about “eating their colors,” but she was quick to add it is not a new trend. In the 1940s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a “food color wheel” that encouraged consumers to bring a variety of foods into their diets.

“We see more opportunity for plant-based ingredients beyond flavor,” Ms. Zegler said. “There is an opportunity to engage the consumer’s senses and make things more physically engaging.”

Areas of the world where the trend is established, she said, is in Japan and South Korea.

Plum Organics Eat Your Colors
Plum Organics offers a line of children’s products branded as Eat Your Colors pouches.
 

“Both countries are a model to follow for this trend,” she said, “and we see this model emerging around the world.”

One company embracing the trend is Plum Organics, a business unit of the Campbell Soup Co., which is marketing a line of children’s products branded as Eat Your Colors pouches. The products are available in six varieties, including white, red, green, purple, orange and yellow. The products feature such ingredients as strawberry, apple, rhubarb and oats (orange); cherry, purple carrot, blackberry and millet (yellow); and sweet potato, apricot, papaya and cardamom (white).

Ms. Zegler said the Plum Organics line is an example of a company using color-coded recipes to help get fruits and vegetables into the diets of children.

Dreyer’s Cake and Cookie Fantasy frozen yogurt
Dreyer’s Cake and Cookie Fantasy frozen yogurt features color from beets.
 

As the trend toward color evolves, Ms. Zegler noted food and beverage product developers are experimenting with various fruits and vegetables. She said beets are coming back into vogue, citing the inclusion of the ingredient in products like Dreyer’s Cake and Cookie Fantasy frozen yogurt and Del Monte red beet vegetable noodles that are offered in Canada.

But she also called beets “polarizing” among consumers and showed consumer response data that highlighted the positive and negative feelings consumers have about beets.

Blood orange was cited as trending among new product introductions, but Ms. Zegler said some consumers have a negative response to the name.

Ube cake
Product developers are starting to work with ube, a purple Filipino sweet potato.
 

“This may be an instance where we need to give it a new name,” she said.

Two colors that may start trending soon are purple and grey, Ms. Zegler said. Product developers are starting to work with ube, a purple Filipino sweet potato, and they are using black sesame to add a greyish tinge to food products.
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