Eating with your Eyes – DigiEye Colour Measurement System - ‘World Tour’ 2010

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VeriVide’s innovative DigiEye System, the non-contact and non-destructive colour measurement and imaging system, will be on show on Stand Q019 at the forthcoming Foodex Exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham which takes place from 21 – 24 March 2010. This is one of several food shows and exhibitions that will feature the DigiEye System during 2010.

(PRWEB) March 2, 2010

Food Shows and Exhibitions during 2010 where the DigiEye System can be seen.

MARCH - European Fish & Seafood Conference 2010 in STAVANGER, NORWAY from March 9th – 10th.

MARCH - Foodex Exhibition at the NEC, BIRMINGHAM UK from 21st – 24th March 2010 – Hall 5 Stand Q019.

JULY     - IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo 2010 CHICAGO, USA -17-21 July. The Institute of Food Technologists.

SEPT    - Eurosense ‘A Sense of Quality’ – the Fourth European Conference on Sensory and Consumer Research from 5th - 8th September 2010. VITORIA-GASTEIZ, SPAIN.

OCT     - AIC 2010 - “Color and Food: From the Farm to the Table” organised by The International Color Association 12th -15th October 2010 in MAR DEL PLATA, ARGENTINA.

CONSUMERS EAT WITH THEIR EYES
Of the various sensory inputs influencing consumers during the purchasing process, sight is undoubtedly one of the first factors determining consumer selection across many retail sectors. Whether buying a new dress or a shirt, a new car or when buying food products, colour is certainly a key attribute affecting the purcMhase.

Technically speaking, within the food sector, it is actually the consumer’s response to the colour of the food in combination with their perceived expectations of that colour, which is a primary influence in the decision to buy.

     Is it safe to eat?
     Will it harm me?
     Will it harm my children or make them ill?
     Will it be healthy?
     Will it give my family the nutritional value they need?

Colour is also used to determine expectation of flavour…

     Will it taste sweet or sour?
     Will it be juicy?
     Will the texture be hard or soft?

Colour is also used to satisfy the consumer’s current and future needs;

     Is it mature, ripe and ready for eating right now?
     Will it keep for a few days until the weekend?

This direct correlation between product colour and appearance with its quality, maturity and the perception of being ‘fit for purpose’ undoubtedly has a significant influence upon food manufacturers.

The method of controlling the colour of food products remains a continuing quality control challenge for manufacturers, even more so as the supply chain becomes progressively more complex and globally diverse.

THE CONTROL OF PRODUCT COLOUR
Historically, many industry sectors, including the food and ingredient sector, used sensory assessment as the main method of controlling the visual characteristics of product. In practice however, regardless of the experience of the assessors or the effectiveness of the training, a degree of subjectively will always remain.

Indeed it is this subjectively that can prove incredibly costly to manufacturers if the retailer and ultimately the consumer, deem the product colour to be unacceptable.

Instrumental colour measurement tools, such as spectrophotometers and colorimeters, can measure the reflectance of a sample product. Whilst these instruments can provide objective pass/fail results they can be limited in application as they intrinsically measure only an ‘average’ colour, assessing only the limited, and possibly unrepresentative, area exposed to the aperture of the instrument.

Critically the measurement of this isolated and unrepresentative area does not correlate with how the human eye sees the colour and overall appearance of product - there is no association to the eye of the consumer or their needs and expectations.

The limitations of these instruments are further exposed by the incongruous variety of food products; irregular shape, multi-coloured characteristics, uneven or inconsistent surface texture, inherent sheen and the relatively rapid degradation of many food products. Additionally the size of some food makes them simply too small to be repeatedly captured by the instrument without the grinding and destruction of the product.

NON-CONTACT, NON-DESTRUCTIVE COLOUR MEASUREMENT
An innovative method for the measurement of the colour and appearance of food products which is gaining increasing prominence within the food industry is the DigiEye System, developed and manufactured by VeriVide Limited, in Leicestershire, UK.

This digital colour imaging system successfully addresses the limitations of traditional instrumental measurement and offers objectively together with accuracy and repeatability, enabling colour measurement of the previously ‘unmeasureable’.

HOW DOES THE DIGIEYE SYSTEM MEASURE THE COLOUR OF FOOD PRODUCTS?
The sample product is placed within the ‘DigiEye Cube’, at the top of which is a high resolution camera enabling precise image capture of the product. The cube is totally enclosed to eliminate all ambient light thereby ensuring the image is captured using only the consistent and controlled lighting within the cube itself.

The images captured in DigiEye can be used to obtain colour data for areas of the product of specific interest as well as assessing the overall visual appearance and it can measure the colours of the products different visual components.

The DigiEye System has a calibrated monitor and printer to give highly accurate on-screen representations of the food product and if required, colour accurate images can be printed to use as master product standards.

The cube contains two types of illumination; diffuse illumination, which facilities reliable colour measurement by removing the specular reflection of products with surface sheen and curved surfaces, such as tomatoes and apples and angled illumination which highlights surface detail of the product, the structure and texture and allows for an accurate assessment of product appearance.

HOW IS IT USED?
To date the DigiEye system has been used for a diverse range of food products with differing end-uses for production environments and for product research and development.

Examples of DigiEye’s use within production environments include the measurement, against established tolerances, of the visual coverage of icing, enrobing and dusting of cakes & biscuits and similarly to measure the bake colour of bread against a single numerical scale evaluation, enabling the respective companies to deliver consistent colour quality to their consumers, helping maintain their position as ‘trusted brands’ during these difficult economic times.

The system is used for the quality control of baked beans, using both visual and numeric colour standards to ensure the colour of the beans and of the sauce colour is kept within the established quality parameters and consumers perception of what represents ‘the right colour’ when serving up beans on toast to their family. In the same manner, images captured within the DigiEye system are used as permanently stored, master digital product standards in the specification of frozen fruit and vegetables.

When the consumer buys a fruit yogurt they probably want to see bits of solid fruit as they peel back the lid, a not unreasonable expectation! DigiEye can accommodate such expectations with the ‘Colour Clustering’ feature which enables calculations of the colour percentage of the various visible components of food product, such as the pieces of solid fruit in a yogurt or the quantity of the various elements of a pack of mixed vegetables or salad.

In practical terms this facility helps to control production and product formulation to ensure conformity to the consumer expectations, they see what they expect to see in terms of bits of chunky fruit – result: happy customer.

DigiEye is also used within product research and development with applications such as post-harvest storage and shelf-life trials to quantify colour change using differing storage methods and time period and for measurement of the affects of differing process methods upon both colour and appearance for food products as diverse as shellfish and broccoli.

Companies with multi-site locations can benefits further through use of this system as all colour data and visual standards generated by DigiEye can be communicated electronically around the world. This allows central control and ensures everybody is working to the same standard and also leads to an increased understanding of what constitutes the standard, support by both colour data and product visual.

THE COST OF NOT MANAGING COLOUR
The cost of not managing product colour can be horrendous. When it comes to benefits DigiEye can go a long way to help minimise wastage and offers a degree of claim protection through quantifiable and equivocal colour data.

In simple economic terms, giving the consumer what they want in regards to product colour makes sense, resulting in tangible benefits on the bottom line, as the consumer maintains loyalty to brands which deliver reliable and consistent products, meeting their needs every time.

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Glenn Littlewood
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