Airdate: Jan 20, 2009
Scientist: Joan Harvey
KSC Flavor - Eye Candy
Hmm, tastes like strawberry. But wait, it's blue!
"Matching up the appearance of the product to what you're actually delivering is very key."
It's no coincidence that spicy chips come in bright red packaging and cool mint gum is boxed in blue. Same goes for the color of the food itself. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Joan Harvey is a flavor chemist at a major candy company. When creating a new product, Joan knows that taste is just part of the equation. In her laboratory, Joan Harvey displays a variety of ingredients and she's careful about color, because it can easily trick the brain.
"You can see here that you go from a pale yellow to a tan to a dark color. And as I blend those ingredients together, it could change the color of the flavor from being colorless and clear to being dark and cloudy."
We tried to trick Joan Harvey, and had her flavor team concoct a yellow mystery drink.
"My initial thought process is, is that I'm going to taste something that is lemon, because it's colored yellow. So let me taste it and see what it is."
[She tastes the concoction]
"Interesting. It's not lemon. It has some sourness, like it should be lemon. But when I started to put the cup up to my mouth, I could smell, the flavor was already starting to come out. And it actually tastes like it could be cherry. It's usually red."
Well, we tried! Just goes to show you can't fool an expert. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com to find flavor experiments you can do at home! The Kids' Science Challenge is a competition for 3rd to 6th graders to come up with ideas for scientists like Joan Harvey to solve. That's kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.