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I'll quote something I found by googling red hungry:

A variety of colors can trigger hunger. The most influential colors in terms of food are: red, orange, yellow. [...]

A color psychologist would tell you that this is no surprise: red is the color that makes people hungry. Red instantly attracts attention and it also makes people excited, energetic, and increases the heart rate.

I've heard this a lot, but I have never noticed it working on myself. If it does work, it would have to be a subconscious process. Has anyone ever verified this?

Edit: The claims I have heard and can see out there usually have to do with the advertising and decor surrounding food, as in this article, which I found in this UX.SE answer to the question Which colors make you hungry.

Also, in my above quote, color psychology is mentioned. Are there research papers not only hypothesizing associations between color and behavior, but demonstrating experimental data? In the Color Psychology wikipedia page, many references to research papers are made, but many of them (the ones I clicked to and read the abstracts of) don't describe empirical proof, sometimes instead using such associations as a given and a platform on which other theories are established (I don't want to pay $35.95 to be sure though).

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Why on earth would you Google red hungry, of all things? –  user4882 Oct 26 '11 at 23:46
No wonder I get the urge to snack while sitting at traffic lights... –  Flimzy Oct 27 '11 at 2:12
I do not quite understand what u are trying to ask, are u looking for sources, or whether the claim that red triggers hunger is true and authentic or what? –  ApprenticeHacker Oct 28 '11 at 11:58
I'm asking whether the claim is true; naturally sources would help :) –  Daniel Oct 28 '11 at 16:56
@user4882: I googled keywords to find whether the claim I'd heard was documented enough to be viable. –  Daniel Feb 26 at 2:10

1 Answer 1

This is indeed an interesting question so I'll attempt to answer it.

Many articles posted on the internet claim that the color red makes you hungry, and they claim that junk food giants (like KFC) use this color in their logos, those articles include: Examiner.com, Ask.com, Huffingtonpost.ca, Azscience.org, Dailyinfographic.org, wikispaces.com, rustrybee.com, omgfacts.com and sometimes they announce extraordinary unferenced claims like this one on thegloss.com:

It has to do with the way it affects your brain. Red releases endorphins into your system that stimulate the appetite.

Most of them give reference to this article (who apparently is offline now):


Fortunately, I could get a version from Wayback Machine, you can see it here.

The article is small, unreferenced and full of logical falacies.

For example, they say that:

What do Safeway, Walgreens, and Costco have in common? The obvious answer is that they are all large operated American supermarkets. But do you think it’s any coincidence that these three grocery stores – along with others like Winn-Dixie, Wawa, Giant, and Supervalu – all use red in their logo?

Interesting, they mention a list of junk-food restaurants (or supermarkets) who list red in their logo as a proof that they Red makes you hungry.

They also forget to mention restaurants that don't use red in their logos, like:

  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Applebee's
  • On the border
  • Shake snack
  • Just salad
  • White Castle
  • Panera
  • Starbucks
  • Little Caesars
  • Carvel
  • The list goes on...

If you google any name from the list, you would see that the logo doesn't have a red colour.

With the help of Rob Marsh, I found an interesting academic article called "Impact of color on marketing". They found out that:

red light stimulates feeding, as in humans, most likely by affecting central control centers, but the extra feeding is not converted into growth.

This study proves that red stimulates hunger in fish, and also claim that it stimulates hunger in humans by referencing to:

Satyendra Singh, (2006) "Impact of color on marketing", Management Decision, Vol. 44 Iss: 6, pp.783 - 789

If you dig in Singh's article:

The red color stimulates appetite because of its effect on our metabolism, making red a popular color choice among fast-food restaurants.... This is an important strategy for formal restaurants to increase their sales

you would notice bizarre thing about this paper is that this claim is unreferenced.

Finally, I found a referenced academic article by Appetite which actually say the opposite:

The color red reduces snack food and soft drink intake

From Abstract:

Based on evidence that the color red elicits avoidance motivation across contexts (Mehta & Zhu, 2009), two studies investigated the effect of the color red on snack food and soft drink consumption. In line with our hypothesis, participants drank less from a red labeled cup than from a blue labeled cup (Study 1), and ate less snack food from a red plate than from a blue or white plate (Study 2). The results suggest that red functions as a subtle stop signal that works outside of focused awareness and thereby reduces incidental food and drink intake.

Enough said. You may look into the studies, they seem convincing.

So, answering your question:

Does the color red make you hungrier?

Not according to scientific evidence. Rob Marsh, an entrepreneur and expert with logos had an interesting opinion:

If you’ve had a positive experience with these brands, they may trigger an “I’d love a blizzard and fries right about now” kind of response. But it has very little to do with the color red.

Color meaning is situational.

Seeing a brand new red restaurant logo isn’t likely to make you hungry (at least until you connect it to a positive eating experience). And it probably won’t raise your heart rate. But it might catch your attention—especially if the red stands out from the surrounding environment. That’s what red does best.

So you can probably forget those color psychology posters and recommendations. Including ours. When it comes to color, a lot of what’s said is conjecture or just plain wrong.

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I'm pretty sure I'm not colour blind,. but I see a lot of red among those logos you claim don't have red in them. McDonalds may have the golden arches but next time you see the sign you'll notice a great deal of red. Also Outback, Chilis, DQ, IHOP, Applebees..... –  Elder Geek Feb 28 at 17:35
I knew it someone is going to comment about this. –  georgechalhoub Feb 28 at 17:36
Glad you found our research helpful (referenced in your answer). I spent several days pouring over research papers and the only claim I could find that the color red could stimulate appetite was the study on fish mentioned above. It's quite a leap to apply that to humans. Lots of people claim red makes you hungry (or repeat the claims) despite the fact that the science to prove it hasn't been done. If the science is out there, I was unable to find it. -rm –  Rob Mar 4 at 16:34
Thank you for your comment. But you posted it as an answer by mistake. You should delete it and post it as a comment. –  georgechalhoub Mar 4 at 18:23
I awarded you the bounty - thanks for answering! But I'm not yet satisfied that any of the studies you reference accurately ascertain whether or in what cases environmental color has an effect on human appetite, so I'm leaving it unaccepted still. –  Daniel Mar 5 at 1:43

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