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Factors affecting consumer choice of novel non-thermally processed fruit and vegetables products: Evidence from a 4-country study in Europe.
Fruit and vegetables (F&V) are key elements of a healthy and balanced diet providing humans with essential nutrients and bioactive compound. Increased consumer interest in health and sensory aspects of foods (e.g., freshness, naturalness, and nutritional value) and sustainable diets has contributed to a growing demand for less processed F&Vs, which is a major driver for the development of a wide variety of novel non-thermal processing technologies (NTPT) in recent years. Conversely, other individual characteristics are increasingly emerging as relevant to explaining variation in food technologies acceptance. Amongst them is food technology neophobia (FTN), a personality trait pertaining to avoidance of technological innovations related to food.
SHEALTHY project conducted a study that aims to better understand consumers’ perception of NTPTs processed F&V products among European consumers. This extends previous qualitative research on the same topic which focused on consumers’ perception of non-thermally processed F&V products across six EU countries.
This study used a choice-based conjoint analysis consumer survey to investigate how three key attributes: stated benefits (health and nutrition, natural taste, shelf-life), processing information (conventional, NTPT), and price point (reference, premium price) affect consumer choice of NTPT-processed F&V product concepts. Additionally, the study aimed to uncover potential cross-cultural and individual differences among European consumers that might affect their choices of NTPT-processed F&V. Results from four European countries (Denmark, Italy, Serbia, Spain) and three base products (orange juice, iceberg salad and cherry tomatoes) consistently indicated that stated benefit was the most important attribute influencing consumer choice.
Differences across consumer segments, defined in terms of country, demographics, and psychographic variables, were overall small and transient. The most consequential difference pertained to consumers’ level of food technology neophobia, with results showing that consumers with high FTN (17% of the sample) were less likely to choose F&V treated with NTPT compared to consumers with medium and low FTN. Taken collectively, the results of this research suggest 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 the interest of consumers.
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