Maximum shelf life and best eating quality are extremely important attributes for successful commercialization of fresh-cut fruits, but both are greatly influenced by the initial ripeness stage of the fruit as well as by the cutting procedures (Allong et al., 2001; Gorny et al., 1999). Within the fresh-cut industry, the establishment of the end of shelf life has been largely based on appearance while neglecting flavor and texture (Beaulieu and Gorny, 2004). To maximize shelf life, firmer, less ripe fruit are usually chosen for processing because of their better firmness retention and minimal change in appearance during handling rather than softer, riper fruit (Hodges and Toivonen, 2008). However, less ripe fruit have normally not attained the optimal aroma, sweetness, texture, and color that are appealing to the consumer, which can be detrimental for the commercialization of a relatively unfamiliar tropical fresh-cut fruit such as mango.
Because both physiological and metabolic activities change during ripening, fruit of different ripeness stages respond differently to peeling and slicing (Allong et al., 2001). Several studies have shown that the more advanced the stage of ripeness, the more susceptible the fruit is to wounding, hence to fresh-cut processing (Beirão-da-Costa et al., 2006; Brecht, 1995; Gorny et al., 2000; Soliva-Fortuny and Martín-Belloso, 2003; Watada and Qi, 1999). Moreover, during ripening, changes in the aroma volatile profile also occur. For example, in ‘Palmer’ and ‘Keitt’ mangoes, terpenes were present in higher concentrations in firm-ripe fruit compared with soft-ripe fruit, which in turn had higher contents of esters and alcohols, mainly ethanol (Beaulieu and Lea, 2003).
Consumer buying decisions are mostly based on the appearance and freshness of the fresh-cut fruit product at the time of purchase. Recurring purchases, however, depend on consumer satisfaction in terms of the fresh-cut product’s texture and flavor (Rico et al., 2007). Therefore, selection of a cultivar with inherently excellent quality potential and processing it at the optimal ripeness stage for fresh-cut processing, which should be based on appearance, sensory, and compositional quality, are key decisions for successful fresh-cut fruit product marketability.
Fruit firmness, peel color, and SSC frequently are used as criteria to measure ripeness of mango for fresh-cut processing (Allong et al., 2000; Beaulieu and Lea, 2003; Gil et al., 2006; González-Aguilar et al., 2007; Rivera-López et al., 2005; Tovar et al., 2001). However, a wide range of physiological changes affecting the eating quality occur during mango ripening. For example, the change in the relative sweetness (sugars) and tartness (acids) of the fruit during ripening is an important flavor quality attribute for mango (Brecht et al., 2004). The ratio of sugars to acids is normally considered a good indicator of sweetness perception by the consumer, for which the higher the ratio, the sweeter the product is perceived to be. The aim of this study was to determine the optimal ripeness stage for processing ‘Kent’ mango fruit into a high-quality fresh-cut product with maximum shelf life based on retention of acceptable appearance, subjective visual and aroma quality, and composition.
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