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Look first taste later

ARE consumers being forced to choose form over taste when buying fruit? And are they prepared to pay extra for something that is guaranteed to taste good?

Fruit growers in WA are rewarded for their ability to provide fruit and vegetables with a consistent size and shape, and much research has gone into this area.

Choosing fruit based on its shape, size and colour is a growing trend among supermarkets. Purchasers for supermarket chains know the public will not buy misshapen fruit, no matter what it tastes like.

The other problem facing supermarket produce buyers is guaranteeing the taste factor.

WA selling agent Mercer Mooney has embarked on its G Sweet project, which uses a mass spectrometer to identify the sweetness of fruit.

That technology has been applied to rock melons, stone fruit and apples. It soon will be used for mandarins.

Golden Circle has been supplying premium pineapples to supermarkets and there are ready-ripe tomatoes and avocadoes hitting shelves.

Marketing Centre managing director Michael Smith said in Europe there was an enormous emphasis placed on the image of fruit and vegetables.

“It’s quite common to see red, yellow and green capsicums packaged in a traffic light format. Cherry tomatoes are wrapped up in Toblerone-like packaging,” he said.

“In Europe, growers are rewarded for their ability to provide consistency in size, shape and colour.

“I think we’re a long way off what’s happening in Europe.”

Action fresh produce controller Igidio De Jesus said supermarkets were trying to establish a balance between taste and form.

“We don’t want to sell fruit that is very attractive if it tastes bad. We won’t get repeat sales,” he said.

“Fruit sales, especially at the beginning of a season, are all about people’s first experiences. If people have a good experience they will buy twice as much fruit as normal and it will get eaten.”

Mr De Jesus said that, while products such as G Sweet were guaranteed sweet, customers did not seem to want to pay extra for it.

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