A large number of studies has demonstrated health benefits deriving from a high consumption of fruits and vegetables. It is therefore of great importance to understand consumers’ expectations about this kind of food as well as to explore the aspects that influence their interpretation of freshness. The objective of this research was to gain insight into consumers’ conceptualization of vegetables freshness, by analyzing the underlying variables that summarize various consumers’ beliefs and expectations on sensory and non-sensory attributes of vegetables. The study considered different stages in which consumers could interpret freshness of three vegetables (tomato, wild rocket, and spinach): at purchase and consumption, with none or some degree of processing and transformation between harvesting and final use. The overall category of ‘fruit and vegetables’ was included in order to examine beliefs towards freshness, without any reference to a specific product. According to the consumers’ opinions, sensory properties were confirmed as the most important indicators of freshness for all products. However, interesting cues relating to non-sensory components have come to light. Particularly, this study provided evidence that freshness is no longer an attribute commonly associated with raw products. Also minimally processed vegetables can be perceived as fresh, on condition that consumers can easily visually assess the integrity and color of the product inside. Frozen spinach is considered as fresh, as long as the whole leaves have been frozen soon after harvest. These findings may contribute to strategic marketing decisions by vegetables and packaging industries, and be important for policy makers in designing public health interventions.
Food Quality and Preference – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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