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Using Colour Measurement Instruments For Natural Foods

Early colour measurement applications tackled both simple and complex objects

Automotive and Decorative coatings applications soon benefitted from the invention of reliable colour measurement devices and have by and large retained the same protocols for the last few decades. More modern innovations and inventions in these sectors have enhanced these practices rather than completely reform them.


Even more on the complex side, Textile and Clothing manufacturers have continued to improve “Right First Time” colour prediction and colour quality practices, despite all the complexities involved in reproducing the same colour time-and-time again. The multiple ways in which fibres and fabrics are created added to the varying forms of of chemistry, textures, and end-use requirements all have to be considered in a precise colour management process.

Between the complexities involved in automotive, decorative coatings and textiles, these industries have faced and overcome some of the more challenging areas for reproducible colour.

Colour Measurement Instruments are designed to emulate human perception as closely as possible, and this is globally governed by the CIE for uniformity and standards. As Instruments lack an “opinion” in colour comparison, an objective response is required, especially when two parties have different views on what the colour actually is.

You will often hear quality managers and colourists’ saying that they don’t see the same judgement as the instruments report, and that is the exact point.
A human will see a red traffic light as green based on considerations that override their visual perception like when you are late and rushing to work to make a meeting all traffic lights might and could appear Green if your minds wants it to be, while an instrument is set to measure only under agreed and controlled “conditions” or settings returns accurate and repeatable results.

The recent and now strong trend towards more natural foods, more plant-based ingredients, and the limitation of food colourants to a very small selection of “natural” products, retail is increasingly looking for higher “appearance” quality standards than ever before.

This is a contradiction in as much as retailers and consumers demand more and more continuity, while at the same time demanding natural untampered products.

From R&D, through process control to Quality Assurance of produce and packaging, food can be managed for uniformity even if the products themselves are not by nature homogenous or conforming.

The key trick here is to use the right instruments that offer versatility and suitability for these applications. You will need an instrument that can measure a wide range of products in their various forms from solids, granules, powders, pastes and liquids.

What solutions are available that offer the versatility required for natural foods and beverages?

Konica Minolta has a unique set of options for the Food and Beverage industry allowing customers to purchase the most suited solution for their application.
It may be that two different types of instrument may be required for the whole manufacturing process, so we should not confuse versatility with a “one size fits all” approach and should always look at the best solution for the required object or product.

To make this point clear and relatable, let’s look at an example application:

As you might have read on some of our other blogs, Flour and Maize colour grading is a key application within our market and the results of precise colour measurement have been fairly remarkable.
The object or product is a fine powder (flour), which needs to be “graded” to a particular colour quickly and most importantly reliably.

Konica Minolta supplies a unique food grade Spectrophotometer, with an accompanying Colorimeter, both of which return the same values for the same colour due to the close levels of inter-instrument agreement offered by these devices. While companies might select the more afforable CR-5 Colorimeter for production and QC measurements the CM-5 is the preferred choice for setting standards and R&D.

Using specially designed glass cells, flour samples can be quickly measured and automatically graded by simply pressing one button.

Colour Grading Flour

If the company at the same time makes beverages or fruit pulps or more relevant ready-made cupcake and pancake mixes, the same devices can be used to control the colour of these products too. One instrument with suitable versatility to measure just about any item you can see.

For companies that do not require absolute precision for their colour measurement or might not need to measure any liquids or beverages, the CR-400/410 Chroma Meter has often been the instrument of choice. Due to it’s portability, these instruments can be used to measure incoming raw materials at the receiving depot or take measurements directly from the bag.

As you can see instrument selection is crucial as companies need to ensure that they have the right tools for their application while still finding a balance between versatility and performance and costs.

Other items that make a difference to good repeatable measurements is sample preparation and measurement technique. Both of these our specialists will guide you on to get the most from your device and avoid any errors.

Non-homogeneous materials can better be measured using average values. “Salt and Pepper” mixtures, as experienced in the spice industry, can be reliably measured by using an average of a number of readings.
Imagine that you can take a 40/60 blend of ingredients and take an average of say 12 readings. If you set this average value as a “Target” and then measure sample mixes, it will easily discern between say a 35/65 or 45/55 blend.

The key to any reliable colour measurement process is the right tools for the application, the right understanding and competence to use those tools and the right partner to ensure that you receive the right post-sales support and service to get the most from your instrument.

Speak to us today about your colour challenges and how you intend to overcome them.