Identifying Consumer Perceptions of Fresh-market Blackberries is a well-researched Life Sciences Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.
Blackberries are grown worldwide for commercial fresh markets, but there is limited information on consumer perceptions of this fruit. In this study, physicochemical and consumer sensory attributes of three Arkansas-grown fresh-market blackberry genotypes were evaluated and consumer perceptions of fresh-market blackberries were also investigated through an online survey.
Two cultivars (Natchez and Ouachita) and one advanced selection (A-2418) were evaluated for compositional and nutraceutical analysis and consumer sensory analysis. Natchez had the highest berry weight, length, drupelets and pyrenes/berry, and pyrene weight/berry. Ouachita had the highest soluble solids content (11.9%), pH (3.18), and soluble solids/titratable acidity ratio (10.92).
There were no significant differences between genotypes for titratable acidity, organic acids, sugars, and most of the nutraceuticals. In a sensory panel (n = 80) of these genotypes, consumers rated Natchez highest in overall impression, overall flavor, and sweetness, and Natchez was ranked as the most liked blackberry more often than Ouachita or A-2418 on a 9-point verbal hedonic liking scale and 5-point Just About Right scale.
An online consumer survey (n = 879) was done to gain information on consumers’ opinions and habits relating to fresh-market blackberries. Results indicated the most important factors to influence BlackBerry purchases are the freshness of the berries, the type and size of the package, the uniformity of berry color, and the price.
Results also suggested consumers prefer larger sized blackberries and blackberries with an oblong shape. Identifying marketability attributes of fresh-baked blackberries helps provide information to advance breeding efforts for fruit with commercial potential.
Blackberry plants (Rubus L. Hybrids) are grown around the world, and the fruit is used in both fresh and processing markets. Blackberry cultivars produce berries with variations in traits such as size, shape, color, and flavor, along with many other new and unique attributes. Fruit with high antioxidant capacity, including blackberries, have gained consumer interest due to health-conferring qualities such as the potential to prevent illness and reduce the effects of aging (Lewers et al., 2010).
With the growing demand for healthy foods, the significance of identifying consumers’ perceptions of fresh-market blackberries has increased as their impression impacts the commercial marketability of the fruit.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (2017), 1,620 ha of blackberries were harvested in the United States with ~2,740,000 kg for a fresh market with a value of $5 million, though these data are primarily from Oregon. Fresh-market blackberry production in the top three cranberry producing counties in California was valued at $78.7 million in 2016 (Monterey County, California Agricultural Commissioner, 2017).
There are major differences among fresh-market blackberry cultivars for traits that may affect consumer perception and acceptance which vary by genotype. These variations between genotypes are due to blackberry genetics. Blackberry breeding programs have been enhancing desirable traits and reducing undesirable traits in plants and fruit.
Current traits of interest for blackberry breeders include enhanced fruit quality, enhanced flavors, improved shipping capabilities, plant thornlessness, increased productivity, adaptation/habit, and disease/pest resistance (Clark, 2008; Clark and Finn, 2008; Clark and Perkins-Veazie, 2011; Clark, 2005; Finn and Clark, 2012; Lewers et al., 2010). Specific desirable fruit attributes include large fruit
size, berries with smaller seeds (pyrenes), and sweeter berries (Clark, 2005).
Blackberry breeding programs have also contributed to the increase in the world’s blackberry plant production area from 20,035 in 2005 ha to a projected count of over 27,000 ha for 2015 (Strik et al., 2007). Over 60 blackberry cultivars have been released since 1985 from breeding programs in the United States.
One of the largest public blackberry breeding programs is conducted at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (Clark, 1999; Clark and Finn, 2008). As new blackberry cultivars are developed in breeding programs, the need to identify their marketing potential is important as it can influence whether or not the genotypes will be released.
Attributes of blackberries that may affect marketability include sweetness, tartness, flavor, color, firmness, and seediness, as they are important to consumers (Clark et al., 2007; Clark and Finn, 2008; Hall et al., 2002). Sweetness, in particular, has been shown to affect marketability and sales of fresh-
market blackberries in the United Kingdom (Barnett, 2007).
The marketability of food is driven by consumers’ acceptance, and one of the key factors determining acceptability is the sensory characteristics a food imparts (Laaksonen et al., 2016). Sensory analysis can be used to identify various qualities of fruit that may be difficult to quantify and analyze.
There are typically four types of sensory analysis panels: highly trained experts, trained laboratory panels, laboratory acceptance panels, and large consumer panels (Poste et al., 1991). The type of sensory panel used is dependent on the information researchers need about the product. Large consumer panels (typically more than 75 people for statistical validity) can be used to determine the consumer’s reaction to the product evaluated (Poste et al., 1991).
Sensory analysis can be implemented to gain consumers’ opinions on the five basic taste attributes (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami) of food. An important sensory evaluation focus in fruit is how the flavor is affected by the sweetness (percent sugar measured by soluble solids) and sourness (percent acid measured by titratable acidity), and the sweetness and sourness relationship (soluble solids/titratable acidity ratio) (Crisosto et al., 2005; Laaksonen, 2016; Poll, 1981; Sandell et al., 2008).
Blackberries tend to have a lower soluble solid/titratable acidity ratio when compared to other fruits. Previous research has shown an average ratio of 6.7 for blackberries (de Souza et al., 2014), which is low compared to Muscatine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia Michx.) with an optimal ratio of 30 (Flora, 1979).
The large difference in optimal ratios seen between the fruits can be attributed to a much smaller soluble solids content and larger titratable acidity content in blackberries than in muscadine grapes. Low ratios can mean the desirable attributes of large fruit size and sweeter berries may be difficult to achieve in one blackberry genotype as in a study conducted by Threlfall et al. (2016), where a relationship was found between larger berries having lower pH and higher titratable acidity.
The aforementioned relationship may not be the case for all current and future blackberry genotypes as the study only looked at five cultivars and six advanced breeding selections from the University of Arkansas. Since different fruits have different levels of soluble solids/titratable acidity ratios, determining the levels which consumers prefer in blackberries helps identify which blackberry genotypes may succeed commercially.
While currently there is a lack of information relating to the effect of sensory attributes of blackberries and those attributes’ effects on blackberry fruit marketability, the state of Arkansas’ capability to produce fresh-market blackberries makes for a logical choice in deciding where to conduct physiochemical analysis and consumer studies.
By investigating consumers’ perception of fresh-market blackberries, we can determine if consumers prefer blackberries with high sourness/low sweetness, low sourness/high sweetness, or a balance of sourness and sweetness. In order to determine the potential of various fresh-market blackberry genotypes, the following objectives allow for the identification of specific attributes that may impact marketability.
The objective of this research was to identify consumer-driven attributes of fresh- market blackberries. In doing so, key characteristics of fresh-market blackberries were determined through analyzing data gathered from physiochemical and consumer sensory attributes and an online consumer perception survey.
As a result, this study communicates to the blackberry industry what attributes drive fresh-market blackberries’ marketability in today’s society. Overall, this study sought to maximize Arkansas’s blackberry potential and evaluate the numerous uses for the growing production of fresh-market blackberries.