Consumer preference for microgreens

Microgreens are tender immature greens of wild species, herbs, grains, or vegetables, harvested upon the emergence of the first pair of true leaves. Microgreens are analogous in size to sprouts but are eaten without the roots and require additional days to thrive and acquire larger, colored, and flavor-rich leaves under light conditions.

Despite their immaturity, microgreens are characterized by sharp flavors, vivid colors, tender textures, and a great source of phytonutrients. Recently, microgreens demand is increasing, they are requested for their freshness and health promoting properties associated with densely fortified secondary metabolites. While numerous species are being tested for agronomic and nutritional suitability, consumer acceptance of appearance, texture, and flavor is critical for the microgreens’ marketplace success.

Scientists at Department of Agricultural Sciences - University of Naples Federico II (Portici, Italy) have investigated whether sensory attributes and visual appearance affect consumer preference for microgreens and their willingness to consume them. The sensory attributes of 12 microgreens species were appraised through an untrained consumer test and a partial least squares structural equation model was developed to link sensorial attributes to consumer willingness to consume it, as consumer preferences will drive the future of the microgreens market.

Microgreens species investigated: 1. Komatsuna; 2. Tatsoi; 3. Pak choi; 4.Cress; 5. Mibuna; 6. Mizuna; 7. Swiss chard; 8. Amaranth; 9. Coriander; 10. Green basil; 11. Purplebasil; 12. Purslane.

"Results showed that although visual appearance of the microgreens was largely appreciated, consumer acceptance overall was mainly determined by flavor and texture - explain the scientists - In particular, the lower the astringency, sourness, and bitterness, the higher the consumer acceptability of microgreens. Among the 12 examined species, mibuna and cress scored the lowest acceptance by consumers, while Swiss chard and coriander were the most appreciated, being therefore good candidates to be introduced in Western markets. In addition, both Swiss chard and coriander have been identified by previous literature as good dietary source of phenolic antioxidants."

This study has contributed to the knowledge regarding consumer acceptability of microgreens by exposing important implications related to the selection and commercialization of new microgreens species. "Further studies could investigate in detail the relationship between sensory attributes and chemical composition of microgreens and study consumer knowledge of the healthy and nutritional characteristics of microgreens and how the acceptability can be affected by the information level of the consumer. Indeed, providing information about the food product characteristics represents one of the key instruments for increasing consumer interest and positive perception of the product," the scientists concluded.

Source: Francesco Caracciolo, Christophe El-Nakhel, Maria Raimondo, Marios C. Kyriacou, Luigi Cembalo, Stefania De Pascale, Youssef Rouphael, 'Sensory Attributes and Consumer Acceptability of 12 Microgreens Species', 2020, Agronomy, Vol. 10(7), 1043.

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