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Assessing preferences of some predefined consumer profiles for attributes of small fruit


Small fruit (commonly referred to as berries), represents a potential high-value niche-market crop in Italy. This fruit grows naturally in many localities of northern Italy, but favorable environmental conditions for this crop can be found also in southern regions where this production may support local farmers' incomes. According to literature and to official statistics, small fruit's health benefiting properties are well known in the international market, but little is known about the reason of a low commercialization rate of fresh small fruit in Italy. The objective of this study was to assess, in the domestic market, consumer preferences for small fruit according to consumer rankings applied to a subset of small fruit attributes (variables). In addition to identify the most relevant attributes that affect positively or adversely the demand for this produce. Six focus groups were conducted, involving n = 54 participants (27 women and 27 men) belonging to five predefined Profiles of consumers complexively. A sensory test of four different types of small fruit (blackberry, raspberry, blueberry and wild strawberry) was carried out along the focus groups to assess sensory parameters. We used the Spearman rank-order correlation coefficient rho (ρ) to examine concordance between consumer rankings. We assessed for each Profile, relevant attributes that affect the demand for fresh small fruit and compared Profiles variables ranking. The results reveal high concordance between variables; the most relevant variable which restrict purchases is high price of small fruit. Despite consumer demand is high, domestic product is not available in the market. Consumers prefer small fruit because of their concerns regarding health and they show a willingness to pay the price established in the marketplace.