Flavor reigns supreme for blueberry shoppers, sending a message that fruit consumers value taste the most, according to recent University of Florida research.
About 61 percent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavor, whereas 39 percent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys.
Psychological refers to consumers who may believe that blueberries, which contain antioxidants, provide health benefits.
The information will be used by Jim Olmstead, University of Florida horticultural sciences assistant professor, when breeding new blueberry varieties, according to a news release.
“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” Olmstead said in the release.
Panel Direct Online conducted the survey using an online questionnaire to recruit participants. They had to have bought blueberries in the past 12 months and were split evenly between men and women.
The first survey, conducted in 2011, involved 306 people. In 2013, the researchers surveyed another 300 blueberry buyers.
Both surveys involved the same questions about six blueberry traits: firmness, texture, size, color, flavor and human nutrition.
Researchers then divided traits into six more categories, so participants revealed their preferences about 36 different blueberry traits.
Consumers favored factors, such as "so sweet...no sugar added" and "bold and intense blueberry flavor" the highest. Also high were "full of juice" and "full of antioxidants."
Using a nine-point scale, participants also were asked to rate their blueberry experiences.
Developing a new blueberry variety can take more than 10 years, so breeders need to know what consumers want before investing the time and effort.
“There’s not just one type of customer,” Thomas Colquhoun, an environmental horticulture assistant professor, said in the release. “You have purchasers that work with the sensory side of the brain, and then you have purchasers that work with the psychological side.”
Olmstead co-authored the paper with Colquhoun, doctoral student Jessica Gilbert, former undergraduate student Laura Levin, professor David Clark, and White Plains, N.Y., consultant Howard Moskowitz.
Their paper appeared online in the July edition of the journal HortScience.