What Colors Make People Want to Eat?

by Patrick Stothers Kwak; Updated September 26, 2017
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Everyone is familiar with the expression "you eat with your eyes," yet relatively few people are fully aware of the visual cues that stimulate appetite. Recent research has provided empirical confirmation of what many restaurateurs already knew anecdotally. In fact, certain color palettes and arrangements can drastically increase the amount someone will eat.

Colors in Food and Appetite

Warm colors like red, orange and some shades of yellow are understood to cause an increase in appetite. This originates from the instinctual association of red and yellow with calorie-rich foods like red meat and ripened fruits. Certain fruit plants will exploit this association for procreational purposes by releasing pigments within the fruit itself, turning it from its original color (green, for instance) to a darker color, often red or some shade thereof, to attract animals.

Ambient Color and Appetite

The restaurant industry has long been aware of color preferences and, for this reason, often employs a warm, reddish color palette when designing an interior space. This can encompass everything from lighting (warm, diffused lighting or candle-light), the color-scheme of the walls, the table-settings and even menu design. Furthermore, reddish ambient colors and lighting will accent those same hues in the food itself.

Quantity of Colors and Appetite

It is also known that a larger quantity of colors will stimulates appetite. According to one study, when given 10 varieties of colored candies, people consumed 43 percent more of them than those who were given 8. A larger number of colors indicates greater variety in the meal; this stimulates appetite. This same principle helps explain why people eat more when served via buffet table than when given a single, large main course.

Mixing Colors and Appetite

Studies have similarly shown that putting colors together stimulates appetite. Subjects given six colors of jelly beans mixed together in one bowl ate 69 percent more than when the same amount were placed into separate bowls. As with increasing the number of colors, intermingling colors creates the perception of increased variety in the meal.

About the Author

Patrick Stothers Kwak first began writing professionally in 2008 as a contributor to the "UBC Foreign Affairs Journal." His articles are centered around international politics and political economy. Stothers Kwak holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of British Columbia and is pursuing his Juris Doctorate at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

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