Production of fresh citrus fruit begets a tremendous economic impact on the State of California, accounting for a total market value of more than $2.2 billion per year [National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2017]. Fresh market mandarins in the United States are a $570 million crop with California as the majority producer among the states, at 94% of production [National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2017]. Because of their desirability, ease of peeling, and favorable flavor, the market for mandarins is growing. There was a 10% increase in production volume since 2015 [National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2017].
Numerous sensory evaluation studies have been conducted on mandarins, mainly through the use of semi-expert or expert judges who evaluated sensory attributes, quality, and hedonic liking (Goldenberg et al., 2015; Hagenmaier, 2002; Obenland et al., 2009, 2011; Tietel et al., 2010). These studies have investigated flavor changes from fruit diversity (Goldenberg et al., 2014, 2015), preharvest effects (Mourão Filho et al., 2007), and postharvest treatments such as waxing (Hagenmaier, 2002; Tietel et al., 2010), storage time, and temperature (Obenland et al., 2011; Tietel et al., 2012). Although valuable, many studies fail to address perceptions of consumers with fruit that they are able to purchase. More studies are needed involving fruit that have been washed, waxed, and packed; a key detail which substantially modulates the flavor of the fruit (Davis and Hofmann, 1973; Hagenmaier, 2002; Obenland et al., 2011; Tietel et al., 2010).
Current regulations in California for Navel oranges and mandarins differ. Mandarins are required to have a soluble solids content (SSC) to titratable acid (TA) ratio of at least 6:1, whereas Navel oranges are regulated by the California Standard (Ferguson and Grafton-Cardwell, 2014). The California Standard is derivative of the BrimA measurement which subtracts weighted TA from SSC (Ferguson and Grafton-Cardwell, 2014; Jordan et al., 2001). Both of these values are known to affect consumer liking (Goldenberg et al., 2015; Obenland et al., 2009; Tietel et al., 2012), but the concept of mandarin and citrus flavor is more complicated than that of SSC and TA (Miyazaki et al., 2012; Obenland et al., 2009; Tietel et al., 2011; Yu et al., 2017). Appearance, flavor, taste, and texture work together to create the sensory experience of a mandarin, which suggests that proper evaluation should use sensory panelists when possible.
Past work with consumer preference mapping has helped to elucidate the important sensory attributes that drive liking for many foods and beverages (Campbell et al., 2004; Carbonell et al., 2008; Daillant-Spinnler et al., 1996; Delgado and Guinard, 2011), often investigating consumer segmentation in tandem. Successful preference mapping requires targeting the correct group of users of the product (Lawless and Heymann, 2010). Today, mandarins are marketed strongly toward children and families. Halos® and Cuties® focus their advertising on families; the former promoting the tagline “Good Choice, Kid,” whereas the later notes their product is for “little hands,” “kid-sized,” and “kid-friendly.” Despite these slogans, no consumer studies have been published on children’s liking of mandarins in California.
This study set out to characterize the sensory preferences of adult and child consumers living in the Davis and Sacramento area of Northern California with fruit that they might encounter in a typical purchasing situation. We hypothesized that consumer preferences for mandarins would be heterogeneous, with unique cluster preferences for specific sensory attributes. We also hypothesized that sweeter fruit, as opposed to more sour fruit, would be preferred based on past work (Goldenberg et al., 2015; Tietel et al., 2011).
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