What does today’s consumer want from fruit? University of Florida associate professor José Chaparro says it’s user friendliness.
is easy to peel and seedless
of an appropriate serving size
doesn’t leave you with sticky or dirty hands or with things you need to find a bin for, such as seeds.
Displaying USDA data showing a drop-off in per capita consumption of various kinds of larger fruit in the US since 1980, Chaparro said that in the case of oranges, the reasons behind this include that consumers find them too big to eat all at once and that they can tend to be bitter.
Meanwhile, there’s been an “incredible increase” in consumption of small, easy to eat fruit, he said. In the case of grapes, the availability of seedless varieties saw per capita consumption double in the US at the end of the 1980s. There has also been a considerable rise in demand for blueberries, strawberries and raspberries – all easy to eat fruit that either have small seeds or none at all, don’t require peeling and are available in small servings, he said.
Modern methods are such that these days there are many kinds of fruit that can be eaten year-round, “but the quality isn’t consistent and the result is consumers are not satisfied,” Chaparro said. Instead, people need to be able to trust that the fruit they know will be as they expect 365 days a year. “But what kinds of fruit can you say that about? Very few,” he said.
Among Chaparro’s recommendations is that the fruit sector seek diversity not just in the types of fruit available but in qualities that make them stand out, such as the colour of skin or flesh (helping consumer to distinguish between products), new flavours and improved nutritional value.
And increasingly important is choosing plants that can cope with climate change, namely those that adapt more readily to factors such as high temperatures and spring frosts, he said.