This week, as I was passing through a drugstore, I noticed on the shelves Cadbury's Creme Eggs. I didn't recognize them at first, because their usual blue, red, yellow, and green packaging was turned into a rather unpleasant purple and green combination that reminded me of those old Nickelodeon shows that used to slime people. I love Creme Eggs, and I usually miss them at Easter because everyone in this city loves them, too and the supply is limited. And yet I can barely bring myself to eat this one. This one is a Screme Egg. It's clearly Cadbury trying to branch out into the lucrative Halloween candy market. And that's great for them. Except the inside of the egg isn't a yellow-orange yolk. It's a green yolk. And that's disgusting.
Last week, we told you about historical food colorings, and how they were mostly bugs and poison, but to be fair, at least people could make themselves eat them. Much of the food today would be inedible if they didn't tart it up a bit. This has been shown both in experiments, and in disastrous marketing campaigns.
One of the most infamous color-based marketing disasters was Crystal Pepsi. It was the same soda everyone loved, just minus the food coloring. People hated it. Although they got the same taste, they couldn't resolve the taste they associated with carmel-colored soda with a new, clear drink. Heinz, for a while, made blue, purple, and yellow ketchups, which kids loved, but parents could barely tolerate. The demand for them dropped off quickly. Maraschino cherries look great, because after being dipped in a calcium salt brine which leaches all their color out, they are re-dyed as bright red.
People taste what they see. A recent study showed that people couldn't tell the difference between orange juice and artificially sweetened orange juice, but imagined a huge difference between regular orange juices and one that had been dyed a brighter orange. Other people couldn't tell whether a juice was grape, orange, or apple, if it was dyed red. To them, it was just red sugar water.
The most famous experiment in food coloring, though, was conducted in the 1970s. A group of people were invited to eat a nice dinner of steak, potatoes, and fries. Obviously, they were dealing with scientists, so they should have been on their guard, but no one could have prepared them for what happened. The light in the room they were eating in looked a little funny. It was filtered to alter color. A blue shirt would look neutral-colored, for example. When the lights were restored to normal, the group noticed that the steak was blue, the fries were green, and the peas were dyed red. Most people stopped being hungry then and there.
It's easy to condemn those people for valuing style of substance, but I can't manage it. I know that a Creme Egg - or a "creme" anything - doesn't have a natural color, but I can't make myself finish the candy I love. It's not just my eyes that are having a problem with it. I swear to you, a green egg just doesn't taste the same — even though I know it does.