Difficult to convince consumers that overly ripe bananas are still appetising

One reason for the significant amount of food that is wasted in developed countries is that consumers often regard visually suboptimal food as being less patalatable. Every year, Europe wastes between 80 and 95% of food per capita, 50% of which is fruit and vegetables. Using bananas as an example, researchers from the University of Dresden (Germany) studied how appearance affects consumer liking, the rating of sensory attributes, purchase intention and intended use.

The ripeness degree (RD) of the samples was adjusted to RD 5 (control) and RD 7 (riper, visually suboptimal). After preliminary experiments, a total of 233 participants were asked to judge their satisfaction with the intensity of sensory attributes that referred to flavour, taste and texture using scales of reference. Subjects who received peeled samples were asked after tasting, whereas subjects who received unpeeled bananas judged expectations and perception only after peeling and tasting. Expected overall liking and purchase intention were significant lower for RD7 bananas.

RD 5 (left) and 7 (right) bananas.

Purchase intention was still significantly different between RD 5 and RD 7 after tasting, whereas no difference in overall liking was observed. Significant differences between RD 5 and RD 7 were observed when asking participants for their intended use. The importance that consumers attribute to shelf-life ha a pronounced impact on purchase intention of bananas with different ripeness degrees. In the case of suboptimal bananas, results show a positive relationship between sensory perception and overall liking and purchase intention. 

"As the general public is largely preoccupied with the environmental and social consequences of food waste, we need to find solutions to reduce it. To do so, marketing campaigns and private initiatives to raise awareness are organised and guidelines to help consumers reduce waste are also provided," explain researchers.

"This study provides insights into the essential role that sensory expectations and perception play in food choice and on how to use human senses to avoid food waste. Convincing consumers that food is still appetising despite the sub-optimal appearance is important to reduce food waste."

A starting point would definitely be to apply lower prices to sub-optimal products and communicate the possible uses beyond fresh consumption.

Source: Symmank Claudia, Zahn Susann, Rohm Harald, 'Visually suboptimal bananas: How ripeness affects consumer expectation and perception', 2018, Appetite, Vol. 120, pag. 472-481.

Publication date: 12/12/2017
Author: Rebecca B Baron
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