[Marcia] Mogelonsky speculated that red was nonthreatening and lacked the acidic quality that can turn people off lemons and other citruses. But it’s not only that. The importance of the color red, sometimes over or in place of specific flavors, is notable. What is fruit punch, when you think about it, but a generic, noncommittal red flavor that doesn’t even bother to associate itself with a specific fruit?
According to Charles Spence, a University of Oxford psychologist who studies how people perceive flavor and consults for major food and beverage companies, color has a bigger influence on flavor than most people are aware. “There are probably a couple of hundred studies now since the first ones in the 1930s showing that if you change the color of a food or drink it will very often change the taste of the person rating it,” Spence said. “You sort of think intuitively, well … the color isn’t part of the taste. And yet this growing body of research over the decades does show it can influence the taste in quite dramatic ways that can’t necessarily be overwritten.”
—Heather Schwedel writing at Slate about the scientific reasons most people like red and pink candies best, and why sweets manufacturers are adjusting their strategies.