Research has demonstrated that the physical attributes of the containers from which we eat and drink can influence our perception of various foods and beverages and the overall consumption experience. In the present study, we extended this line of research in order to investigate whether the consumer's perception of a hot beverage (namely hot chocolate) would be influenced by the color of the plastic vending cup from which it was served. To this end, 57 participants tasted four samples of hot chocolate from four cups of the same size but different color (red, orange, white and dark cream). The participants had to rate each sample of hot chocolate (two of which had been sweetened) on a number of sensory scales. The results revealed that orange (with a white interior) and dark-cream colored cups enhanced the chocolate flavor of the drink and consequently improved people's acceptance of the beverage. By contrast, sweetness and chocolate aroma were less influenced by the color of the cup, but the results still showed that the hot chocolate, when consumed from the dark-cream cup, was rated as sweeter and its aroma more intense.

Practical Applications

These results are relevant to sensory scientists interested in how the brain integrates visual input (such as color), not only from the food itself, but also from the container, packaging or plateware from which it is being consumed. In addition, these results should hopefully help stimulate chefs, restaurateurs and those working in the food and beverage packaging sectors to think more carefully about the color of their plateware/packaging and its potential effects on their customers' perception of the taste/flavor of the products that they happen to be serving/delivering to market.