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What do Italian consumers look for when buying fresh-cut mixed salad?

Italian scientists have investigated the sensorial attributes and factors that consumers consider when evaluating the freshness of fresh-cut mixed salads. This survey should help the fresh-cut industry to better satisfy the requests and expectations of consumers. The scientists have collected information on the sensorial attributes and shelf-life as these parameters are known to be the main factors influencing the freshness perception of the consumer.

For the survey, 81 consumers gave an overall rating, the intensity of sensorial attributes and the freshness level of salad samples during shelf-life. The sensorial attributes were considered at day 0, 3, 7 and 9 of shelf-life.

The freshness was evaluated by consumers both "informed" and "not informed" on the product. Furthermore, consumers have filled in a questionnaire, in which they rated the importance of six attributes (appearance, freshness, organic certified, brand, expiration date, package transparency) known to be fundamental for the fresh-cut product choice.

The relationships among the sensorial attributes, significantly influenced by the shelf-life, showed that both the perceived freshness and the overall liking are directly related to the appearance, in terms of leaf green, assortment salad and leaf turgidity. The level of perceived freshness, the expiration date and appearance were confirmed to be the most important factors in determining the consumers choice for fresh-cut products.

Moreover, two consumer typologies resulted from the survey:
  1. "information oriented" consumers wish to have information on the product, thus it is important to have a label stating nutritional data, sustainable production system, ethical values, etc.;
  2. "sensorial quality oriented" consumers are attracted by sensorial attributes, thus they wish to see the content of the package in terms of appearance and assortment.
The results showed that the first group of consumers were more sensitive to nutritional and health information than to freshness, their perception is strongly influenced by the expiration date; and the second group of consumers expressed an overall liking regardless of expiration date.

The scientists conclude that different strategies could be used to promote the purchase of fresh-cut salad according to consumer segments

Source: Dinnella C., Torri L., Caporale G., Monteleone E., "An exploratory study of sensory attributes and consumer traits underlying liking for and perceptions of freshness for ready to eat mixed salad leaves in Italy", 2014, Food Research International, Vol. 59, page. 108-116.