Research Report Re-released – Smarties taste test

An article in the Daily Mail reports that Nestle is removing the artificial food coloring from Smarties.

Although Nestle says it is responding to calls from consumers for more natural ingredients, it has faced heavy lobbying from campaigners worried about the effects of the chemicals on children’s health.

The colours being axed include Brilliant Blue (E133); Quinoline Yellow (E104); Sunset Yellow (E110); Ponceau 4R (E124); and Carmoisine (E122).

A recent study by experts at Liverpool University identified a possible harmful cocktail effect on the nervous system of artificial colours and chemicals.

Two of the colours examined were Brilliant Blue and Quinoline Yellow, which like many others was originally derived from coal tar.

This seems like a good occasion, therefore, to re-release some of my earliest consumer research, conducted in partnership with Mark Jaycock. In “Are You A Smartie?” we asked a range of demographics (age, gender, smoking status) to identify the color Smarties candy based on taste alone. We theorized that the food coloring itself may have had a taste that people were learning and indeed identifying with the supposed flavor of the color itself. I wonder how the results would be different now, with the artificial coloring removed? Will the natural colorings taste as strongly?

The report is available as a PDF download here. It was tempting, when revisiting this work (which is about 25 years old) to correct typos, upgrade the information design and readability, but as an artifact of some of my earliest consumer research, I felt it was better to leave it mostly intact.



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