How should fruit be described on packaging labels?

In recent decades, packaged fruit has gained market ground over loose fruit, and fruit containers have become a source of information for consumers. It is important to investigate consumer responses to the information contained on fruit packages from a wider perspective to identify the facts that consumers are really interested in and those that are secondary. In line with this, it is also necessary to identify information gaps, i.e., information that consumers need for making a fully-informed decision, but is not currently available. Acquiring this knowledge can be very useful for designing packaging labels that are meaningful and relevant for consumers.

Scientists at Sensory and Consumer Science Research Group, Postharvest Technology Center of Valencian Institute for Agricultural Research have identified the attributes that consumers need to know in purchasing fruit. The results of the study were published on the 31 December 2020.

This study had three objectives related to consumer information needs for decision making when purchasing fruit: (1) determine if consumers’ choice of packaged fruit rather than loose fruit is motivated by their interest in the information provided on packaging; (2) identify information gaps on fruit packaging labels; (3) identify those sensory attributes that consumers consider to be of major interest to be included in sensory labels of different fruit types. For the work, data were collected by an online questionnaire.

“Based on our results, we conclude that Spanish consumers are very interested in receiving information when they purchase fruit. However, their choice between packaged and loose fruit does not depend on their information needs. In fact, a gap between information interest and information use was detected as their final purchase decisions are not always based on the provided information – The scientists explain – ‘Harvest date’, ‘production method’, ‘percentage of the price received by farmers’, ‘postharvest treatments’, ‘sensory properties’, and ‘environmental information’ were identified as the major information gaps and, therefore, the industry should make efforts to provide this information or make it clearer than it currently is.

For a correct design of sensory labels, they should include information on ‘sweetness’ and ‘flavor intensity’ irrespective of fruit type. ‘Sourness’ and ‘juiciness levels must be included on citrus fruit labels, while ‘sourness’ and ‘firmness’ are relevant for kiwifruit. Information on texture properties must be provided to help consumers choose pome and stone fruit. Other attributes, such as easiness to peel, are important only for citrus fruit.”

Source: Fernández-Serrano Paula, Tarancón Paula, Besada Cristina, 2021, ‘Consumer Information Needs and Sensory Label Design for Fresh Fruit Packaging. An Exploratory Study in Spain’, Foods, Vol. 10, 72.

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