1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Vegetable Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705
2 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705
3 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Biometrical Consulting Service, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705
Consumer acceptance of fresh and processed tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) products is influenced by product appearance, flavor, aroma, and textural properties. Color is a key component that influences a consumer's initial perception of quality. Beta-carotene and lycopene are the principal carotenoids in tomato fruit that impart color. Analytical and sensory analyses of fruit quality constituents were conducted to assess real and perceived differences in fruit quality between orange-pigmented, high-beta-carotene cherry tomato genotypes and conventional lycopene-rich, red-pigmented cherry tomato cultivars. Thirteen sensory attributes were evaluated by untrained consumers under red-masking light conditions where differences in fruit color could not be discerned and then under white light. Panelists preferred the appearance of the red-pigmented cultivars when viewed under white light, but scored many of the other fruit-quality attributes of red- and orange-pigmented genotypes similarly whether they could discern the color or not. Irrespective of light conditions, significant genotype effects were noted for fruit appearance, sweetness, acidity/sourness, bitterness, tomato-like flavor, unpleasant aftertaste, firmness in fingers, juiciness, skin toughness, chewiness, bursting energy, and overall eating quality. Attributes whose scores differed between white and red-masking lights were intensities of tomato aroma, tomato-like flavor, sweetness, bursting energy, juiciness, and overall eating quality. The results demonstrated a color bias favoring red-pigmented fruit and highlight the influence that color has on perception of tomato fruit quality, particularly on tomato-like flavor, juiciness, and overall eating quality. Interactions between fruit chemical constituents likely influenced perceptions of quality. High-beta-carotene genotypes contained higher levels of sugars and soluble solids and equal or higher titratable acidity than the red-pigmented cultivars. Total volatile levels did not differ among genotypes; however, several individual volatiles were significantly higher in high-beta-carotene genotypes.
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