How Does a Food’s Color Affect Its Taste? This Supermarket Ran an Experiment to Make a Point

Intermarché shows artificial colors mess with our minds

Intermarché used a simple experiment to show how artificial colors change the way food tastes. Intermarché

Intermarché shows how artificial ingredients can color our perceptions and even subvert our sense of taste in a 60-second film introducing the French grocery chain’s L’Essentiel range of natural food products.

You won’t find artificial colors, preservatives or additives in L’Essentiels.

Alas, the same can’t be said for the yogurt and ice cream snacks in the spot, which come in various gaudy shades designed to trick participants’ taste buds:

That’s right, the yogurts were all vanilla, but food coloring convinced the subjects they were tasting strawberry, blackberry or raspberry.

And, even though one subject guessed the blue-hued ice cream was “fresh mint,” and another says the orange-colored ice cream tastes like orange, every bar was, in fact, lemon, regardless of color.

French law forbids marketers to explicitly say that additives might be harmful, so Paris-based agency Romance devised the taste test to make its point in a subtle, compelling way that would meet the nation’s broadcast standards.

Romance designed the test with food science expert Muriel Jacquot, but the team still wasn’t sure how it would all play out.

“For the experience to go well, it was important our subjects not know its purpose, so we just told them it was a simple consumer test for Intermarché,” says agency senior copywriter Philippe Pinel. “To be honest, the very first subject got it right when he tasted the first yogurt, so we held our breath. But after that, everything went bad—just as intended.”

Toward the end of the ad, Intermarché notes that if food coloring can so completely fool our brains, it’s probably best avoided, along with other additives.

“What we didn’t expect was that some of our subjects would be smarter than us,” Pinel recalls. “After realizing we were tricking them with colors, a group of subjects decided to continue the experience with their eyes shut. Well done, girls!”

The campaign also has print ads, which you can check out below:


Brand: Intermarché
Strategic and Operational Marketing Director: Caroline Puechoultres
Marketing Manager: Vincent Bronsard
Brand and Communications Director: Vincent Fièvre
External Communications Manager: VĂ©ronique Legueult
Advertising Director: Augustin Devulpian
External Communications Manager: Camille Sassi
Advertising Manager: Lucie Ducos

Agency: Romance
President: Christophe Lichtenstein
Executive Creative Director: Alexandre Hervé
Director, Strategy: Romain Roux
Strategic Planner: JĂ©rĂ´me Lavillat
Copywriters: Frederick Lung and Philippe Pinel
Art Director: Julien Rezette
Associate Director: Marie-Laure Dangeon
Account Manager: Thibault Loué
TV Producers: Corinne Persch et Johanna Lubin

Director: Jérémy Frey

Production company: STORY

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.