Colour for food in packaging…

08Jan09

Colour is used extensively by the retail, marketing and packaging industries in order to convey messages and sensations or trigger associations which encourage the consumer to buy their products. Food colorants are added to ensure that the colour of the food matches our expectations, for example, butter is naturally much whiter in colour more akin to lard, and the canning process deprives the garden pea of much of its natural colouring.

Certain packaging colours are associated with particular tastes or qualities e.g. pink and red indicate sweetness – white and blue suggest purity and refinement – green is synonymous with mint flavoured goods, although mint ice cream is only mint coloured by virtue of food colouring! Purple, gold and black are used to indicate exclusivity, expensiveness, luxury and quality, dependent on the nature of the product.

Packaging has to provide all the attraction and all the information necessary for the customer. Packaging design is now concerned with photographic realism, visual clarity, bright colours and clearly recognisable symbols. Moreover the recognisability of a design, the colour or an image has to be attained on many different printing substrates; paper, board, plastics, metal foil, tin cans and so on. Any design that is adopted must be reproducible on all media. This calls for careful consideration of colour at all stages. Moreover, printing is a complex process with many steps before ink is placed on the substrate. Hence developments in surface coloration cover a wide field from design through production to final delivery. The demand, then, in packaging is for high-quality colour both in line work and in illustration.

There are two aspects of quality; the level of quality and the repeatability. If one is reproducing an old master, the objective is to produce a picture that is a good reproduction of the original in terms of the medium used. Minor differences between two reproductions are of little consequence as a rule since they are considered side by side only very rarely. In packaging, however, the exact reproduction of image after image is highly important, particularly with depth of colour. Changes in colour can lead customers to believe that material is older and hence to ignore it. Consequently, contrary to many beliefs, the colour printing of packaging is often a more critical operation than the printing of publications. It must be remembered that all printed packages, whether in colour or not, must be odour-free and compatible with their contents. With products such as foods or pharmaceuticals, non-toxic inks are essential and these must be highly resistant to possible leaching out of the contents of the package.

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