Why Your Store Needs to Be Selling Black (Goth) Food

June 08, 2017

Besides being an Instagram hit, there's a reason black foods are so enticing.

A new color trend is gaining a lot of attention from consumers all around the world, and a study published in Flavour Journal starts to explain why. The research points out color as the most important product-intrinsic sensory cue, when it comes to taste and flavor expectations. The study was based on a large body of laboratory research that analyzed how people reacted to food color that did not match the taste and how it affected the overall experience. Taste is scientifically defined as the perception of the basic tastes (sour, sweet, bitter, salty) that are detected by receptors in the oral cavity. Flavor refers to the situations where a retronasal olfactory component (meaty, burnt, floral, fruity, citrusy and so on) is experienced. So color itself can’t change the actual taste but it can affect the flavor experience. 

When experiencing taste and flavor we are undoubtedly influenced by our expectations and already have an idea of the flavor, before we even taste the product. This is because color is the cue used by the brain to help identify the specific food and to make predictions for taste and flavor. This explains why most people inspect their food and drinks visually before they can make a decision to eat or buy it. So the color sends us a signal with a flavor expectation associated to the specific hue and this means changing the hue or intensity of a food/drink could potentially impact the consumers flavor experience. 

With this knowledge food can be designed to either meet the expectations of the consumer or to surprise. The Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University created a study together with chefs where they evaluated recipes specifically meant to surprise. The research showed that people like the fun elements of food that look in a certain way, but delivers an unexpected flavor experience. When it comes to color specifically, researched revealed that artificial coloring (as a surprise element) can be perceived negatively. This explains why the goth food-trend has tapped in to the element of surprise but without receiving negative feedback. 

Goth-food is food that has been naturally colored with black color such as activated charcoal, squid ink, black garlic, black quinoa, black sesame seeds or other naturally black foods. Food Scientist Charles Michael has an idea why the new trend has developed “Black color – even if no actual flavor is added – makes the food’s flavor seem much more intense and hence more pleasurable.” The natural black foods are claimed to be ‘healthy’, so when you eat goth food you perceive the experience as more satisfying, both in taste, flavor and health wise.  

Examples of innovative and successful goth food:

Black Burgers 

Little Damage Black Soft Serve with Activated Charcoal 

Charcoal Lattes 

Black Doughnut  

Ovenly’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake