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The Colour Psychology of Fast Food Joints That Makes Our Tongues Go Bananas

How old were you when you discovered that we eat with our eyes before our mouth gets physical?

Photo by Lidye on Unsplash

Out of all the information we consume daily, 80% is visual. That means the representation of colour unconsciously directs our decision-making process more significantly than we realise.

The same powerful psychological effect of colours is what the fast food joints apply to attract us.

For example, take the famous restaurants where we binge religiously, McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Burger King, etc.

Okay, Subway was too much. Sorry.

What do these restaurants have in common that makes them irresistible to our tongues?

“People buy on emotion and justify on logic.”
Zig Ziglar

One powerful attraction that works most of the time is food chains’ colour patterns in their branding and food products.

Depending on the brand message, different colours ignite different sets of emotions. And believe it or not, we are emotional creatures.

But red is the standard colour common in all binge-worthy foods.

Of course, a solid red would be bland. The secondary colours are yellow, green and rarely blue.

Why red?

We have a history with red. It is the most visible colour on the spectrum ( second only to yellow ). We are more reactive to red because of the brain’s relationship with the colour.

Since it has the highest wavelength, it can reach long-distance without losing much intensity, which means red is the perfect colour for grabbing attention.

The second quality of red is whetting our appetite. It triggers the secretion of the hunger hormone — ghrelin.

Ghrelin is the hormone secreted in our empty stomachs, or when we see the food we would kill for.

Secondary colours.

Of course, red would be too primary and hackable.

So, brands use some secondary colours to attract their potential customers while conveying the brand message without words.

The colours based on brand value are:

  • Green for harmony, health and nature. For example, Subway and Starbucks.
  • Yellow for happiness. For example, McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King.

The timeless colour combinations.

Every person has a different experience with colours based on their upbringing. But the dominant standard colours have been affecting our food choices even before the dot-com bubble burst.

When we see the colour combinations of red, green and yellow, it ignites certain emotions in our brain that make us act out on the spot by secreting the hormone ghrelin.

When you think about your favourite lip-smacking food, the saliva in your mouth is step #2. Step #1 is the secretion of ghrelin in your stomach.

Closing thoughts

When you understand how colour plays a vital role in food decisions, you can be conscious of your eating habits.

For example, we rarely find blue in any food. That’s why blue is widely used in weight-loss programs to suppress appetite.

Apart from red, green, yellow and blue, more colours direct our food choices.

But since these four colours are the ones that are common across a wide range of people, it is beneficial to consider their significance when you’re about to enter the emotional eating phase, from which only a few food warriors return with zero regrets.

Understanding the colour psychology of food helps you detect the difference between unjustified craving and genuine hunger, which manages emotional eating and helps you with healthier food choices.

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Sanjeev is a mentor, writer, and fitness enthusiast from India. He writes about lifelong learning, personal growth, and positive psychology. When he’s not engaging with students in solving their doubts or busy writing, he’s sweating either in a workout, vlogging or playing with his cat, Jim. You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter.



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Sanjeev Yadav

Sanjeev Yadav

Writer • Mentor • Recovering Shopaholic • IITR 2019 • ✍🏼 Personal Growth, Positive Psychology & Lifelong Learning• IG: sanjeevai • List: