A technical and economic evaluation of alternative methods for extending the shelf life of fresh pecans
Wolfe, Kent L.
McKissick, John C.
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Demand for pecans has been stagnant over the last seven years, leading pecan producers to look for new ways of increasing demand. With new preservation techniques it may be possible to produce snack products of pecans similar to that of peanuts. In order to determine potential consumer demand for pecan snacks and other potential products requiring an extended shelf-life, a national survey of 913 people was performed in order to obtain data on the demographics and buying habits of pecans consumers. A Tobit model was used to analyze the survey data to determine the mean Willingness to Pay for a pecan snack product. The mean willingness to pay was estimated to be $0.89 for a snack size bag of pecans. In addition, the average pecan consumer does not purchase pecans very often, fewer than three times a year, with most purchasing one pound bags of halves. Almost eight percent of pecan consumers surveyed indicated that they had a problem with rancidity in pecans. The consumer study indicated a potential for pecan products requiring an economical method to preserve quality and flavor. Four potential methods to treat pecans to extend storage and reduce rancidity were evaluated. Chemical analysis of treated pecans at 3 and 6 months indicated that rancidity levels (as measured by peroxide value) were only slightly higher for pecans exposed to supercritical carbon dioxide and supercritical carbon dioxide plus an antioxidant treatment, stored at room temperature, as compared to the frozen control pecans. Pecans treated with the antioxidant but not exposed to supercritical carbon dioxide had lower rancidity levels than untreated pecans stored at room temperature but were significantly higher than the supercritical carbon dioxide treatments and the frozen pecans. Preliminary taste test results were contrary to the chemical analysis and indicated that there may be unfavorable attribute changes (flavor, texture etc.) associated with the supercritical carbon dioxide treatment methods even though the methods seem effective in controlling rancidity.