Air or microwave dried strawberries: What do consumers prefer?

Consumers in Norway, Romania and Turkey prefer strawberries that are air dried to those that are microwave dried. They are also more attracted to cheaper, domestically produced strawberries, than those that come from Europe.

2017.12.07 | Asioli, D.a,b,h et. al

Fig 1: Example of a choice set used in the discrete choice experiment

BACKGROUND

Microwave drying is a new mild technology that is able to dry fruit by retaining a larger quantity of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibers (Chandrasekaran, Ramanathan, & Basak, 2013). This study investigates consumers’ acceptance of this new technology in organic dried strawberries varying in nutrients content, price and origin. The study was conducted in three European countries: Norway, Romania and Turkey.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of the study were i) To investigate consumer choice for organic dried berries produced with mild processing technologies; ii) To study processing preferences in interaction with price, origin and nutrients content and iii) To compare three European cultures: Norway, Romania and Turkey.

MATERIALS & METHODS

The study was based on a choice experiment of mock-up products with four conjoint attributes: Price varied at three levels, Origin varied at two levels (Europe and Own country), Technology: 2 levels (Air drying and Microwave drying) and Nutrients varied at two levels (Basic level and More nutrients). All products featured an organic logo. The choice design was composed of 11 choice sets of two product alternatives plus “opt-out” option (D-optimal design generated in Ngene 1.1.1; D-error: 0.63) (Fig. 1).

The data was collected by web-survey in Norway, Romania and Turkey with N= 200 consumers per country, recruited on the criteria that they consume dried berries, fruits or nuts and that they purchase organic products at least once a month. Mixed Logit models with main effects and interactions were developed to identify factors driving consumer choice in the different countries (STATA module mixlogit).

RESULTS

Results indicate that air drying is the preferred mild technology for dried strawberries in all countries (Table 1). However, it can also be seen that microwave drying is better accepted in national products than in products of European origin in Norway and Turkey (interaction effect origin*technology) and better accepted with higher nutrients content in Romania. In addition, the results show that individual consumer heterogeneity is identified for various effects (significant standard deviations on effects; see Table 1), indicating large individual variations and potential consumer segments.

 

Table 1: Choice model results. Estimate indicates mean population effects; STD. DEV. indicates individual differences. Significance at 5%, 1% and 0.1% are indicated with stars.

CONCLUSIONS

Consumers on average prefer Low prices, National Origin and Air drying technology in the three countries. Technology preferences interact with origin in Norway and Turkey, and with nutritional content in Romania. This study indicates a market potential for microwave dried berries on European markets, but also highlights the importance of consumer trust in national origin of organic products and the need for maintaining market prices unchanged despite the development of new mild processing technologies.  

Authors:

Asioli, D.a,b,h, Rocha, C.c,d, Wongprawmas, R.e, Popa, M.f, Gogus, F.g, and Almli, V. L. a

NOFIMA AS, Ås, Norway; Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway; University of Porto, Porto, Portugal; SenseTest Lda., Portugal; University of Bologna, Italy; University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania.; g Gaziantep University, Gaziantep, Turkey; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, United States.

Agriculture and food