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Consumer perception of irradiated fruit: a case study using choice-based conjoint analysis

Deliza, Rosires, Rosenthal, Amauri, Hedderley, Duncan, Jaeger, Sara R.
Journal of sensory studies 2010 v.25 no.2 pp. 184-200
agribusiness, case studies, consumer acceptance, consumer education, food irradiation, food processing, fruits, industry, interviews, papayas, prices, product quality, ripening, supermarkets, temperature, Brazil
Papaya is a popular fruit among Brazilian consumers, but one problem is that fruit ripens quickly due to the high temperatures of the country. Irradiation is an effective way of slowing down ripening, hereby increasing shelf-life, but consumer acceptance of this novel technology is paramount for its successful introduction by industry. Using conjoint analysis, this research measures consumer acceptance of irradiated papaya fruit in a sample of urban Brazilian consumers. The study assesses the joint influence of product appearance, price and information about the use of irradiation for consumer choice. Real fruit was used and consumer responses were collected through intercept interviews in supermarkets. These two empirical aspects add external validity to the research. The responses from a convenience sample of 168 consumers from Rio de Janeiro revealed that the product appearance, as a proxy for product quality, was the most important factor influencing decision to purchase papaya. Price was of lesser importance. The participants in this study did not reject papaya due to the labelled information about the use of irradiation. This suggests irradiation as a viable alternative for fruit producers. Consumers demonstrated no knowledge about food irradiation, and education initiatives may be useful as a strategy to aid commercial introduction of irradiated papaya in Brazil. This study has important practical implications for Brazilian agribusinesses because it contributes to our understanding of the relationship between market changes, consumer behavior, food products and processing technologies. It has shown that sensory appearance was the key factor influencing Brazilian consumers' choice of papaya, however, more education and information regarding irradiation technology should be provided. The results suggest that irradiation could be used in Brazil and provide a viable alternative to fruit producers. As a consequence, these results are useful for strategic planning of consumer education regarding food irradiation (with emphasis on the benefits of processing and addressing the myths), something which could, eventually, contribute to a more favorable consumer response to the technology.