Factors affecting consumer choice of novel non-thermally processed fruit and vegetables products: Evidence from a 4-country study in Europe

Xiao Song, Lone Bredahl, Maria Diaz Navarro, Paola Pendenza, Isidora Stojacic , Simona Mincione, Giustina Pellegrini, Oliver K. Schlüter, Elena Torrieri, Rossella Di Monaco, Davide Giacalone*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

A wide variety of novel non-thermal processing technologies (NTPTs) are under development to meet the increasing consumer demand for high-quality fruit and vegetable (F&V) products. Understanding consumers’ needs and possible barriers to acceptance of these technologies is however essential to assess the commercial feasibility of mildly processed F&Vs. Situated within this context, and extending previous work on the topic, in this paper we present results from a large-scale choice-based conjoint analysis consumer survey to investigate consumers’ choice behavior towards NTPT-processed F&V products in four European countries – Denmark, Italy, Serbia, and Spain, using three model products – orange juice, iceberg salad, and cherry tomatoes respectively processed via three NTPT – mild processing, novel washing, and active packaging, compared to three conventional processing techniques – pasteurization, conventional washing, and conventional packaging, respectively. Images of the three product categories were developed to systematically vary in three key attributes: stated benefits (health and nutrition, natural taste, shelf-life), information on processing (conventional, NTPT), and price point (reference, premium price). The results showed that, out of the three attributes considered, “stated benefit” was the most important driver of consumer choice – in all countries and across product categories. Benefits relevant to health and nutrition, and to natural taste were more positively received, compared to extension of shelf-life. Information on processing and price levels had a similar influence on consumer choice of iceberg salad and cherry tomatoes, whilst for orange juice processing had a larger effect than price, suggesting that information on processing may be more impactful for F&V-derived products than for fresh produce. Individual differences among consumers according to country, age, gender, and dietary status, appeared small and transient. The most consequential individual characteristic was consumers’ level of food technology neophobia (FTN), with results showing that high FTN consumers (17% of the sample) were less likely to choose F&V treated with NTPT, compared to consumers with medium or low FTN. Overall, this research suggests that products treated with NTPT may have a broad appeal across European consumers, and that targeted communication explicitly and efficiently focusing on health and taste benefits has the greatest chance to meet consumer preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110975
JournalFood Research International
Volume153
Number of pages12
ISSN0963-9969
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Consumer research
  • Cross-cultural research
  • Food technology neophobia
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Mild technologies

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