Segmentation of tomato consumers by preferences in flavor acceptability
West, Jennifer Rachel
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Tomatoes are among the major produce items eliciting greatest consumer dissatisfaction, primarily attributed to flavor. Providing specific consumer segments with items that meet their expectations for flavor acceptability should lead to increased consumer satisfaction. Focus-groups, sensory descriptive analysis, and consumer evaluations were conducted to determine consumer acceptability. Focus-group discussions about fresh tomato flavor revealed distinct segments of tomato flavor acceptance including vine-ripened, sweet, tart, and sweet and tart groups. Consumer evaluation studies found that consumers base their levels of acceptability of tomato flavor on different criteria. Combination of sensory descriptive analysis with consumer testing yielded predictive equations which can be used to identify components of flavor contributing to acceptability of consumer segments. Breeders can then select for these specific characteristics in tomatoes resulting in increased consumer satisfaction in tomato flavor and increased sales of tomatoes; a benefit to both consumers and producers alike.