Production of citrus fruit in California has a substantial impact on the economy of the state, bringing in greater than $2.2 billion in 2016 alone (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2017). Fresh and processed navel oranges (C. sinensis) alone contributed greater than $706 million in 2016 (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2017). In the 2015–16 season, navel oranges produced for fresh market consumption represented a large portion of all citrus fruit produced in California, at 42% of total volume (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2017).
Improving liking for a product requires consumer testing. Data from consumers are often nondescriptive, with consumers providing information solely about their liking. While this information is useful in determining which product each group of consumers may prefer, combining this information with detailed analysis of the sensory or chemical properties of a product allows for characterization of the drivers of liking for each consumer segment that is uncovered by preference mapping (Schlich, 1995). This technique has shown success in characterizing the preferences of consumers for different products in multiple markets (Greenhoff and MacFie, 1994; Guinard et al., 2001; Helgesen et al., 1997; Naes and Risvik, 1996; Schlich, 1995; Sidel and Stone, 1993; Thybo et al., 2004; Yackinous et al., 1999). Data analysis consisting of partial least squares (PLS) regression to relate instrumental and descriptive analysis measures of sensory attributes to consumer liking has also been successful in the past for identifying key attributes that drive consumer preferences (Helgesen et al., 1997; Tenenhaus et al., 2005; Thybo et al., 2004).
Past work with navel oranges has found that high-quality fruit often has high concentrations of sugar in relation to acid (Ivans et al., 1987; Jordan et al., 2001; Obenland et al., 2009). Both sugar and acid components are measured by growers to determine whether the fruit is market ready by use of the California Standard. The California Standard indeed is a quality measurement, based on soluble solids concentration and acid concentration, that aims to enhance consumer acceptability of the fruit (Ferguson and Grafton-Cardwell, 2014). In other commercial citrus categories such as grapefruits, mandarins, and other oranges, a minimum ratio of soluble solids to acid [SSC/titratable acidity (TA)] is required before the fruit is deemed acceptable for market (Ferguson and Grafton-Cardwell, 2014). This standard was changed in 2012 for navel oranges as it was found that the SSC/TA ratio is not a strong predictor of consumer liking (Jordan et al., 2001; Obenland et al., 2009). The new standard provides a quality rating proportional to the concentrations of both sugar and acid instead of relying on their ratio and is defined as
This study set out to fulfill four objectives: 1) to uncover preference segmentation of adult and child consumers with respect to commercially available navel oranges; 2) to identify the key sensory attributes that drive liking for each preference cluster of consumers; 3) to characterize these segments using demographic, usage, and psychographic information collected through an exit survey; and 4) to test the appropriateness of the current California Standard for navel oranges as it applies to consumers.
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