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Framing the perfect strawberry: An exercise in consumer-assisted selection of fruit crops


While hands-on, focus-group-based testing may be used to measure consumer preference, other computationally-based methods have also proven effective in testing opinions and sentiment toward a product. The IdeaMap® approach presents online, human subjects with a suite of attributes that define a given product. The subjects rate the product as these attributes change in various combinations. Upon analysis, individual attributes of the product, identified as consistently favorable or unfavorable, become apparent. In applying this methodology to strawberries, three-hundred and six subjects representing a broad cross-section of demographics from the United States were surveyed. The subjects rated perceived strawberry fruits based on appearance, texture, health benefits, flavor, point of purchase, and how they were consumed. Results from these experiments define the individual elements of a strawberry that contribute to or detract from an “ideal” strawberry experience. Furthermore, the results of this study indicate that sweetness and complex flavors are the most important attributes, while perceived health benefits had little influence on consumer preference. The point of purchase can have a strong positive or negative effect, depending on the demographic fraction. Additional analysis of these results illustrate that there is not a single, perfect strawberry. Specific likes, dislikes and preferences change with ethnicity, age, gender, urban or suburban location, education and marital status. The results from this study can help shape breeding priorities as well as provide important guidance for marketing to specific demographics in the interest of increasing strawberry consumption.