Starbust recently released an all pink bag of candy and Twitter went nuts. But according to a recent article from slate.com, this isn’t the first time companies have come up with a group of only pink or red flavors. Starburst previously released a FaveReds collection that included strawberry, cherry, fruit punch, and watermelon (fun fact, it’s allergy-free as well).
Popsicle came out with Red Classics that featured only strawberry, cherry, and raspberry flavors. Mike and Ike had a Red Rageous version and Life Savers made their Cherry the only flavor that comes individually packaged. You can even get all red Sour Cherry Peeps, Cherry Vines, red Tic-Tacs, Hot Tamales, and Haribo gummy strawberries. There are now websites that will allow you to filter out all colors that aren’t red and pink.
In the last three years, Marcia Mogelonsky, the director of insight in food and drink for Mintel, found that nearly a third of confectionary products created in the United States have been red. And it’s not just a coincidence.
Turns out there is actually a scientific reason why people can’t resist red and pink candy.
Here’s how it breaks down according to Charles Spence, a University of Oxford psychologist: Color has a much more substantial effect on people than they realize. Dr. Spence says that decades of research shows that color is indeed a part of the taste when it comes to food and it can’t be ignored, especially when it comes to red. Red is reported to be indicative of sweetness, whereas green tends to indicate sourness, as is the case in nature. Spence found that by adding red, it allowed food to be perceived as 10 percent sweeter.
Psychologist Marcia Pelchat, PhD, says that cultural experiences also dictates our desire or disdain for certain colors. If an entire culture has established a certain color as the preferred one and the one associated with sweet, then that is the one that will stick.
Throughout history, as Dr. Pelchat suggests, especially in the Industrial Age, around 1820, the color red was used to make sweets more appealing to children, according to safefood.eu.
Dr. Spence adds that the preference can begin as early as infancy. Research confirms that infants will prefer a sweet taste versus a sour one and will prefer the color of the cup in which the sweet item resides.
Unilever (the owner of Popsicle) saw the power of the red when it came to creating an all red product line. A representative credits the company’s success to scientific data as well as customer feedback. Customers were demanding an all-red line no matter the flavor.
Essentially, the reason you can’t resist the pink and red Starbursts is because, according to science, whatever color is associated with sweetness is the one that creates a preference for that color. It will in turn increase sales and just fuel an even greater frenzy to have foods in that color.
If you’re a sucker for sweets (or even their saltier cousins), check out these healthier versions of your favorite junk foods.