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Green is for Isocyanate

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It turns out all those beautiful reds, greens, oranges, blues and yellows found in the produce section and elsewhere in the grocery store are having more than a subliminal effect on consumers. According to a recent story from foodnavigator.com, companies are starting to link these colors with the health benefits they indicate.

Take a pineapple, for example. That juicy yellow inside isn’t just pleasing to the eye — it’s an indicator of beta cryptothanxin, a chemical that helps cells in the body communicate and possibly prevent heart disease. The vibrant red of tomatoes and watermelons is the calling card of lycopene, which studies have shown to protect against prostate cancer and heart disease. Even the white of an onion, pear or cabbage signals a healthy compound: Allicin, which studies have shown to prevent tumors.

color_wheel2.gifManufacturers like Unilever and Kellogg’s have started marketing their products off this sort of information. Fruit and vegetable juice maker Kagome has developed a color wheel (shown at right) to show the healthy properties of each color. The marketing message with this and other programs seems to be a positive one: Fit some of every color into your diet.

I have to admit, however, that it’s a bit off-putting to see apples and oranges reduced to their base elements. For supermarket retailers, will telling your customers to eat their zeaxanthin (a compound found in corn and avocado, among other things) be an effective marketing strategy? It certainly doesn’t sound appetizing.

On the other hand, this is a language that people are increasingly able to understand. Just look at the consciousness surrounding antioxidants and omega-3s. So while it’s interesting to note what makes a plum a plum, don’t turn a colorful shopping experience into science class.

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