Most of the top food apps are red, but the reason has little to do with science

I recently changed the way apps are organised on my phone. Rather than putting them in folders based on category or putting the most-used apps at the top of my screen, I organised them by colour. Now, my phone screen is a rainbow array of apps.

But when I organised them by colour, I started to notice a pattern. Most of my travel-related apps were warm tones (pink, red, orange, etc.), I had tons of blue apps, and I had no purple apps to speak of.

It turns out that my anecdotal observations were indicative of a larger trend in app colours. App design firm MindSea performed an analysis by compiling the icons of the top 50 apps in the App Store categories of Games, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music, and Productivity.

After studying 300 app icons, the company was able to identify trends, like the fact that 24% of apps are blue.

This is likely because “blue suggests reliability, trust, honesty, loyalty, and tranquility,” according to MindSea.

But perhaps more interesting is what the study says about food and drinking apps: Most of them are red.

Of the top 50 apps in the Food & Drink category in the App Store, 30% of them are red. The next most-used colour is white, clocking in at only 12%.

Here are just a few of the red dining apps:

  • McDonald’s
  • DoorDash
  • OpenTable
  • Grubhub
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Eat24
  • Vivino
  • Seamless

Then there are others that have a bit of red in the icon but aren’t fully red, like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and 7-Eleven. Still more are in the red family: On my own phone, Caviar is orange, Resy is red, Foursquare is hot pink, and Tab is a red-orange.

Shaky science

So why this preference for red in the food app industry? The reasoning may lie with the same theories about fast food: that brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Dairy Queen use red in their stores and logos because it makes people hungry.

Now, the science behind that idea is shaky at best. My colleague Rebecca Harrington did a great breakdown of some of the studies that support and refute the concept that red makes you hungry, but ultimately, the theory is likely untrue.

What’s more likely the case, she points out, is that our affinity for the colour red has a lot to do with past experiences. You might have good memories associated with the colour, like stopping for fast food on a family road trip and seeing that big red McDonald’s sign. So while the colour itself may not make people hungry, Harrington surmises that most people probably just associate fast food with being quick, cheap, easy, and generally trustworthy because of our experiences with brands like McDonald’s in the past.

Fast food brands redTech Insider/Google ImagesIf you ate any fast food growing up, chances are good the company’s logo was red.

So are all these red apps making you hungry, therefore encouraging you to spend more? No, probably not. But do they make give you a familiar warm and fuzzy feeling? It depends on your past experiences, but perhaps.

Either way, if you feel like your iPhone is a sea of red and blue apps, don’t worry — it’s not just you.

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