Visual Storytelling: How Foodies use Colour to Capture Attention
"We eat with our eyes", as the saying goes, and while it's true that every one of our senses - sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste - plays an important part in our food experiences, it's actually taste that comes in last.
As we approach a plate, we see the food and its surroundings, we smell the aromas, we hear what's going on around us - laughter, conversation, crockery, glass - we touch the furniture, linen and cutlery, and finally, we raise the food to our mouths, and taste. That's a lot of elements leading up to the moment that we first taste the food, all building up our expectations along the way.
And with sight the likely forerunner, colour clearly plays a massive part.
Colour has come to the fore in recent years, often spotted as foodies jostle for position in the digital space. But it's not a passing fad for the world of Instagram alone, it's crucial to capturing our attention in real life experiences too.
Did you know that our appetites can increase or decrease depending on the colour of what we have on and around our plates? That it can evoke happy memories, and help us forge positive associations with food? That clever academics are drenched in constant colour research to make a difference to our daily lives?
Here are just a few simple ways that colour can make for a mind-altering experience that increases both our engagement and our appetites.
From the freshest of fruit or vegetable to the subtlest of spices, the natural world of ingredients provides us with an amazing array of colours to play with.
On the surface, bright colours are perfect to capture the attention of children (and grown-up children!), who are by far the most enthusiastic about food presented in an eye-catching way. Mixing the reds, purples, greens, yellows of fresh food makes for a healthy plate that's filled with visual fun. It can even become an exciting game.
Delve deeper and we find a world of nutrients associated with each colour - the orange of carrots, for example, is a source of Vitamin A, and the red of strawberries is said to contain antioxidants. Lemons are packed with Vitamin C, with their yellow colouring also uplifting our moods, making us optimistic.
Deeper still, and we find that colour is of great importance when it comes to people living with medical treatments which alter taste - colour can revive much-needed interest in food and bring positive recollections back to their mealtimes.
The role of colour in plates and platters is more significant than you'd think - not only is it simply a way to stand out from the sea of white porcelain (although white can be a powerful colour in its own right), but when considered in line with the ingredient colours used within the dish, it can create a striking visual statement.
Colourful, contrasting or patterned plates can conjure up food stories from distant lands, evoke nostalgia, comfort, form the complementary backdrop to works of culinary art, and even make food taste more sweet or sour - an important area of research when it comes to subtly reducing sugar in meals, for example.
And we're particularly fascinated by the use of colourful and contrasting crockery in the arena of our ageing population - the bright colours are not only cheering, but visually define the food and tableware more clearly, making it easier for people living with conditions such as dementia to dine.
The environment around us, whether at home, a restaurant, or another venue, sets the scene for our mood and appetite. Supported by other design elements that make up the visual environment, such as textiles, surface materials, and soft furnishings, the colours used in those elements and the surrounding walls can alter our experiences and expectations, influencing us in various ways such eating more and taking our time (and spending more money!), or speeding us up (to make way for the next!). But also from a more long-term, societal perspective, encourage relaxation and socialisation, which is vital in eating for health.
While the use of colour in design schemes doesn't have enormously hard and fast rules, especially when it's part of a well-thought-out colour and materials palette, it's good to know in general that warm colours, like red, yellow and orange, improve the appetite, while cool colours, like blue, grey and black, decrease it.
In fact, a lot of it harks back to our long-evolved psyches, established over millennia - red (danger, passion) increases our heart rate and, consequently, our appetites. Green (freshness, abundance) reminds us of healthy food, and simultaneously calms us. Grey is the worst - can you guess what we associate it with...?
So colour psychology, teamed with the enormous spectrum of shades and tones available in each colour, means it's important to choose our combinations wisely.
Breaking up the beige with colour pops is proven to spark interest and interaction with food and improve our ongoing associations with it - it can be as simple as adding peas, peppers, or pomegranate seeds into a bowl of rice or couscous.
Meanwhile, the more complex explorations into colour examine how to change our perceptions and experiences to make a real and lasting difference to our everyday lives.
Wherever you are in the colour conversation, it's generally agreed that sight is the sense that starts us off on our food journeys, and colour is a key visual trigger for that. So it's a vital consideration when assembling your food marketing and education toolkit in line with your audience and overarching goals.
Have a look at our Pinterest Board for some inspiration, and see if you can spot some golden opportunities to add some colour to your campaign.