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Consumer preference of apples grown in northern Mississippi.

Apples of cultivar/rootstock combination 'Earligold'/EMLA 7, 'Jonagold'/EMLA 111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 7, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 111, 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA 7, 'Jonafree'/Mark, 'Macspur'/M7A, 'Royal Gala'/MM111, and 'William's Pride'/M7A were evaluated by an untrained consumer panel at harvest, 30 days, and 60 days after harvest. Changes in apple appearance, flavor, sweetness, tartness, and firmness were rated. All combinations except 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A had a high acceptance rating by the panelists during the study. Fruit of 'Earligold'/EMLA 7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A had a moderate acceptance by the panelists at harvest. Results indicated that fruit of medium and late cultivars such as 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 7, and 'Royal Gala'/MM111 were preferred by panelists compared to fruit of the early harvested cultivars 'Earligold'/EMLA 7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A.

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The consumer traditionally plays a major role in determining fruit acceptability for marketing of fresh and stored fruit (Wills et al., 1998). Consumers' perception of apple quality include such factors as appearance, texture, firmness, sweetness, and flavor with preference and taste being key factors affecting consumer purchase decisions. Growers can improve product attributes, competitiveness, and marketability by using knowledge of consumers demand (Brumfield et al., 1993). Watkins et al. (1993) indicated that in 'York Imperial,' apple fruit firmness and soluble solid contents (SSC) were the best indicators of fruit maturity and quality. Optimal quality for Washington apples was obtained for fruit harvested 173 to 180 days after full bloom (Plotto et al., 1995). In addition to maintaining high quality standards, good storage life is essential in successful marketing and selling of fruit to consumers (Patte, 1985). Researchers have found that apples can be stored from -1 [degrees]C and 4 [degrees]C for 90 days while maintaining quality (Westwood, 1993). Johnson and Ertan (1983) reported that 'Idared' apples stored at 1 [degrees]C were firmer than those kept at 0 [degrees]C or 4 [degrees]C. Shelf life after storage is also an important aspect of cultivar evaluations (Moore and Ballington, 1990). It is important to evaluate apple cultivar acceptance both at harvest and after storage. Many scientists have used taste panels to determine quality of apples and most studies are concerned with preferences or differences among cultivars (Watada et al., 1980). Plotto et al. (1997) and Williams and Langron (1983) have used sensory science such as hedonic scales or intensity scales to describe apple cultivars. Since the taste evaluations of Janson (1972), little has been published in North America on taste ratings of apples, especially the newer cultivars. In addition, there is little information on which parameters to use in measuring consumer preference of apples. Apples have many divergent attributes that are associated with acceptability and/or desirability (Watada et al., 1980). Williams and Langron (1983) conducted a study of attributes that panelists recognized in 'Cox's Orange Pippin' apples and concluded that quality of apples can be characterized best by identifying the significant attributes, and then determining the intensity of such attributes. The purpose of this study was to determine consumer preference for apples based on appearance, flavor, sweetness, tartness, and firmness of fruit at harvest, and after harvest storage.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Trees producing fruit for the experiment were seven years old and grown in Atwood silt loam soil at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Research and Extension Center (38[degrees]08 N, 89[degrees]00'W), located seven miles south of Pontotoc, MS. The average annual maximum temperature of this area is 30 [degrees]C (86 [degrees]F) and minimum temperature is -1 [degrees]C (30 [degrees]F), with annual rainfall of 81.23 cm (32 inches). Research trees were planted in 1993 at a spacing of 2.5 m in rows and 3.7 m between rows. Trees were pruned to a modified central leader system. The soil pH was 5.6. In May 1999, a 5-20-20 fertilizer was applied at a rate of 450 g per tree, and ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) at a rate of 230 g per tree. No irrigation was applied. Weeds were controlled in the row by application of Round-up[R] herbicide in a one meter strip, and a mowed strip was maintained between rows. Insects and diseases were controlled through a spray program as recommended by Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Fruit from cultivar/rootstock combinations 'Earligold'/EMLA 7, 'Jonagold'/EMLA 111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 7, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 111, 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA 7, 'Jonafree'/Mark, 'Macspur'/M7A, 'Royal Gala'/MM111, and 'Williams Pride'/M7A were included in this study. The experiment consisted of four single tree replications. Fruit quality and sensory evaluations were conducted immediately after harvest, 30 days, and 60 days after storage at 2 [degrees]C and 71% relative humidity (RH). Parameters evaluated were fruit size, expressed as fruit length and diameter, soluble solids content (SSC), juice pH, and firmness. Fruit size was measured using a vernier caliper and fruit firmness was measured using a penetrometer (Instron Universal Machine, Model 1011, Canton, MA) and measured in Newtons. Juice soluble solids content was measured in Brix with a Bausch & Lomb Abbe 3 L refractometer, and juice pH was measured using an Accumet pH meter 925 (Fisher Scientific, Pittsburgh, PA).

Five apples from each tree were washed and cut longitudinally and placed on paper plates for panelists to evaluate. A whole apple was also placed on the plate to be evaluated. Twenty-four people among students and staff were chosen at random from Dorman Hall, Plant and Soil Science Department, at Mississippi State University to participate in the test. Each panelist rated the apples for appearance, flavor, sweetness, tartness, and firmness using a ten point scale, where 1 = dislike extremely (very low), 5 = neither like or dislike (moderate), and 10 = like extremely (very high).

A completely randomized design with repeated measures was used in the experiment. Data were analyzed using PROC GLM (SAS Statistical Software, SAS Institute, Gary, N.C.). Treatment means were separated by LSD, 5% significance level.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

At harvest, consumer preference based on fruit appearance did not vary among cultivar/rootstock combinations, except for 'Macspur'/M7A which was least preferred (Table 1). Thirty days after storage, consumer preference for 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'Macspur'/M7A, was least. Fruit appearance among the remaining cultivar/rootstock combinations did not differ (Table 2). Sixty days after storage, 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A were least preferred and 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A had completely deteriorated, hence the sensorial test for appearance of these cultivars was not possible. Consumer preference based on appearance among the remaining cultivars did not differ and ranged from 6.6 to 7.3 (Table 3). Similarities in preference among most of the cultivars suggest that panelists were consistent in rating the apples. Kappel et al. (1992) reported that in a sensory evaluation, only the visual attributes were found to be significantly different among the strains of 'Gala' and 'Jonagold.' Fruit appearance will be influenced by the intended market and this should be considered when selecting a cultivar for commercial production. Brumfield et al. (1993) reported similar conclusions when looking at consumer tastes and preferences in purchasing fresh tomatoes.

At harvest, consumer preference based on flavor indicated a high preference for 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, and 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7. These combinations were harvested mid and late season. The least preferred by the panelists were 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A. Flavor did not differ among the remaining cultivar/rootstock combinations (Table 1). Thirty days after storage, 'Jonagold'/EMLA111 and 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 maintained the highest preference rating by the panelists and 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A, the lowest rating (Table 2). Sixty days after storage, 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A could not be tested due to fruit deterioration (Table 3). Similar results were reported by Plotto et al. (1997) where distribution of sensory scores suggested that early harvested fruit had not developed full flavor and that high values for tartness and firmness did not necessarily imply quality and consumer acceptance.

At harvest, consumer preference based on sweetness indicated that 'Earligold'/EMLA7, 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A were the least preferred by the panelists (Table 1). Thirty days after storage, 'Earligold'/EMLA7, 'Jonafree'/Mark, 'Macspur'/M7A, and 'William's Pride'/M7A were least preferred (Table 2). Sixty days after storage, the highest preference rating were for 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 followed by 'Jonafree'/Mark, 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Royal Gala'/MM111 and 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7, while 'Improved Golden'/EMLA111, 'Jonafree'/Mark, and 'Macspur'/M7A were least preferred. 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A were not tested due to fruit deterioration (Table 3).

At harvest, consumer preference based on tartness showed that 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7, 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7, and 'Royal Gala'/MM111 had the highest rating, while 'Jonafree'/Mark had the lowest rating or least preferred (Table 1). Thirty days after storage, preference based on tartness showed that 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 and 'Royal Gala'/MM111 did not differ. The remaining cultivars were least preferred (Table 2). Sixty days after storage, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 were most preferred, followed by the remaining cultivars, except 'Jonafree'/Mark which was least preferred. Tartness ratings for 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A decreased considerably in storage for 60 days and samples were not evaluated due to fruit deterioration.

At harvest, consumer preference based on firmness showed that 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA 111, 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7, 'Royal Gala'/MM111 and 'William's Pride'/M7A did not differ and were preferred compared to 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A. 'Earligold'/EMLA7 was the least preferred (Table 3). Thirty days after storage, 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA111, 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 and 'Royal Gala'/MM111 were most preferred and did not differ, followed by 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A. 'Earligold'/EMLA7 was least preferred. Sixty days after storage, all cultivars were equally rated, except 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A which were least preferred. 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A were not tested due to fruit deterioration. In Canada, it is assumed that consumers find apples with a firmness of less than 44.5 N too soft (Prange et al., 1993). A sensory evaluation of 'McIntosh' in New York found crispiness to be directly related to firmness. Apples with pressure test values of 85.5 N were rated as "crisp, neither too hard nor too soft" by consumers, while those with firmness of 31.5 to 36 N were rated too soft (Lin and King, 1978).

In general, changes in apple preference with time in storage differed among the cultivar/rootstock combinations tested. Such differences are mainly due to differences in the physiological age of fruit at harvest and losses in fruit quality with time in storage (Wang, 1999).

Relating the sensory evaluation to the analytical data of maturity indices at harvest (Table 4), it was found that the highest preference in appearance coincided with greater fruit length (r = 0.77, n = 24) and greater fruit diameter (r = 0.70, n = 24). The least preferred cultivar/rootstock combination, 'Macspur'/M7A, had small fruit. Cultivars intermediate in fruit size, also, maintained a high preference. Factors such as color, fruit shape, and cosmetic appearance were not included in this study, since appearance was based on an overall rating of like or dislike. Such factors must be included considering that most consumers use color as an indicator of ripeness while others look for uniformity of fruit (Brumfield et al., 1993).

Soluble solid content (SSC) and juice pH are commonly used to evaluate fruit flavor. In this study, fruits that had high SSC and high juice pH were not necessarily rated high in flavor, sweetness, and tartness. However, using destructive techniques such as SSC, pH values, and titratable acidity, insures a minimum of quality acceptability for the consumer (Kader, 1999). In comparing firmness at harvest using a penetrometer and firmness by the panelists, it was evident that the more acceptable cultivars by the panelists were firmer at harvest. Two months after harvest, the most preferred cultivars in the sensory test (all the parameters considered) had the highest SSC, juice pH, and firmness values (Table 4). In addition, fruit deterioration of 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A two months after harvest, coincided with the lowest SSC, juice pH, and firmness values of these cultivars which reflected loss of fruit quality due to senescence.

CONCLUSION

In general, this study identified 'Royal Gala'/MM111, 'Jonagold'/EMLA111, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA7, 'Improved Golden'/EMLA111, and 'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7, as the most preferred cultivars both at harvest and after storage. 'Jonafree'/Mark and 'Macspur'/M7A were the least acceptable cultivars for fresh fruit consumption. 'Jonafree' and 'Macspur' are progenies of cultivars traditionally used for baking, therefore, such findings are not surprising. Early harvested cultivars 'Earligold'/EMLA7 and 'William's Pride'/M7A were identified as having poor keeping quality in storage and may be more suitable for the immediate fresh market or short time storage. The consistency in panelists' preference as measured by appearance, flavor, sweetness, tartness, and firmness indicates that such parameters are adequate to determine consumer acceptance.
Table 1. Panelists' ratings of various sensory parameters as influenced
by cultivar at harvest, 1999.

 Parameter (y)
Cultivar Appearance Flavor Sweetness Tartness Firmness

'Earligold'/EMLA7 7.8 a (x) 6.0 c 5.2 bc 5.6 bcd 4.0 c
'Jonagold'/EMLA111 8.0 a 8.0 a 7.1 a 7.2 a 7.5 a
'Improved Golden'/ 8.0 a 8.0 a 7.5 a 7.3 a 8.0 a
 EMLA7
'Improved Golden'/ 8.0 a 7.0 b 6.9 a 5.9 bc 7.5 a
 EMLA111
'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 8.0 a 7.0 b 5.9 a 6.4 ab 7.5 a
'Jonafree'/Mark 8.0 a 5.5 d 5.3 bc 5.1 d 5.1 b
'Macspur'/M7A 6.8 b 5.6 d 5.5 b 5.3 b 5.3 b
'Royal Gala'/MM111 8.0 a 7.5 ab 6.8 a 6.8 ab 8.0 a
'William's Pride'/M7A 8.0 a 6.5 bc 6.7 a 6.0 bc 7.0 a

(x) Means in columns separated by Duncan's Multiple Range Test,
P < 0.05. Means with the same letter do not differ
(y) Parameters were rated on a 10 point scale, where 1 = dislike
extremely, and 10 = like extremely

Table 2. Panelists' ratings of various sensory parameters as influenced
by cultivar at 30 days storage time, 1999.

 Parameter (y)
Cultivar Appearance Flavor Sweetness Tartness Firmness

'Earligold'/EMLA7 5.5 b (x) 5.9 b 4.4 c 4.5 c 4.5 c
'Jonagold'/EMLA111 7.5 a 7.6 a 6.7 a 6.8 a 6.8 a
'Improved Golden'/ 7.5 a 7.8 a 7.3 a 7.1 a 7.1 a
 EMLA7
'Improved Golden'/ 6.6 a 6.9 b 6.8 a 5.9 bc 6.9 a
 EMLA111
'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 7.5 a 6.7 b 6.5 a 6.0 ab 6.0 ab
'Jonafree'/Mark 7.0 a 5.0 c 5.0 b 4.4 c 5.4 b
'Macspur'/M7A 5.5 a 5.2 c 5.0 b 4.8 cd 5.0 b
'Royal Gala'/MM111 7.0 a 7.0 ab 6.7 a 6.2 ab 7.2 a
'William's Pride'/M7A 6.6 a 5.9 b 5.4 b 4.8 c 4.8 c

(x) Means in columns separated by Duncan's Multiple Range Test,
P < 0.05. Means with the same letter do not differ
(y) Parameters were rated on a ten point scale, where 1 = dislike
extremely, and 10 = like extremely

Table 3. Panelists' ratings of various sensory parameters as influenced
by cultivars at 60 days storage time, 1999.

 Parameter (y)
Cultivar Appearance Flavor Sweetness Tartness Firmness

'Earligold'/EMLA7 -- (z) -- -- -- --
'Jonagold'/EMLA111 7.1 a (x) 6.8 a 6.3 a 5.8 b 6.8 a
'Improved Golden'/ 6.6 a 7.2 a 6.8 a 6.9 a 7.3 a
 EMLA7
'Improved Golden'/ 6.6 a 6.6 a 5.4 b 5.9 b 7.0 a
 EMLA111
'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 6.9 a 6.5 a 6.1 a 5.8 b 6.6 a
'Jonafree'/Mark 5.3 b 4.5 b 6.5 a 4.0 c 4.5 b
'Macspur'/M7A 5.5 b 5.1 b 4.4 c 4.5 b 4.8 b
'Royal Gala'/MM111 7.3 a 6.7 a 6.5 a 6.2 ab 6.8 a
'Williams Pride'/M7A -- (z) -- -- -- --

(x) Means in columns separated by Duncan's Mulitple Range Test,
P < 0.05. Means with the same letter do not differ
(y) Parameters were rated on a 10 point scale, where 1 = dislike
extremely, and 10 = like extremely
(z) No data presented due to fruit deterioration

Table 4. Maturity indices of apple cultivars measured at harvest time,
1999.

Cultivar Diameter (cm) Length (cm)

'Earligold'/EMLA7 67.8 b 59.7 bc
'Jonagold'/EMLA111 75.5 a 63.3 a
'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 67.4 b 62.5 ab
'Improved Golden'/EMLA111 63.3 b 56.8 c
'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 64.6 b 58.2 c
'Jonafree'/Mark 56.3 c 45.7 d
'Macspur'/MM111 57.5 c 46.2 d
'Royal Gala'/MM111 65.6 b 59.1 c
'William's Pride'/M7A 74.1 a 60.3 abc

Cultivar SSC ([degrees]Brix) pH Firm (N)

'Earligold'/EMLA7 12.8 c 3.63 bc 84.8 d
'Jonagold'/EMLA111 13.9 ab 3.6 c 113.7 c
'Improved Golden'/EMLA7 14.1 a 3.7 b 132.9 bc
'Improved Golden'/EMLA111 14.1 a 3.7 b 145.5 b
'Scarlet Gala'/EMLA7 13.9 ab 3.75 b 151.2 ab
'Jonafree'/Mark 14.4 a 3.45 d 156.0 a
'Macspur'/MM111 13.4 b 3.4 d 134.3 bc
'Royal Gala'/MM111 13.5 b 3.86 a 133.5 bc
'William's Pride'/M7A 13.9 ab 3.84 ab 98.5 d

Means separated (by letters) in columns by Duncan's multiple range test,
P > 0.05


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Dr. Clarence Watson for his time and assistance with the statistical analysis of data, and to the panelists for their support in the sensory evaluations in this study.

LITERATURE CITED

Brumfield, R.G., A.O. Adelaja, and K. Lininger. 1993. Consumer tastes, preferences, and behavior in purchasing fresh tomatoes. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 118(3):433-438.

Janson, H.F. 1972. Taste evaluation of apples from an Ontario find garden. Fruit Var. J. 26(2):26-33.

Johnson, D.S., and U. Ertan. 1983. Interaction of temperature and oxygen level on the respiration rate of storage quality of 'Idared' apples. J. Hort. Sci. 58:527-533.

Kadar, A.A. 1999. Fruit maturity, ripening, and quality relationships. Prov. Inst. Symp. on effect of pre- and postharvest factors on storage of fruit. Acta Hort. 485:203-208.

Kappel F.M., M. Dever, and M. Bouthillier. 1992. Sensory evaluation of "Gala" and "Jonagold" strains. Fruit Var. J. 46(1):37-43.

Liu, F.W., and M.M. King. 1978. Common evaluation of 'McIntosh' apple firmness. HortScience 13:162-163.

Moore, J.N., and J.R. Ballington Jr. 1990. Genetic resources of temperate fruit and nut crops I, International Society for Horticultural Science. Wageningen, The Netherlands. 980 pp.

Patte, H. (ed). 1985. Evaluation of quality of fruit and vegetables. AVI Publishing Company, Inc. Westport, Conn. 315 pp.

Plotto, A., A.N. Azarenko, J.P. Mattheis, and M.R. McDaniel. 1995. 'Gala', 'Braeburn', and 'Fuji' apples: maturity indices and quality after storage. Fruit Var. J. 49:133-142.

Plotto, A., A.N. Azarenko, M.C. McDaniel, P.W. Crockett, and J.P. Mattheis. 1997. Eating quality of 'Gala' and 'Fuji' apples from multiple harvests and storage durations. HortScience 32(5):903-908.

Prange, R.K., M. Meheriuk, E.C. Lougheed, and P.D. Lidster. 1993. Harvest and storage. Pages 64-69 in C.G. Embree. Producing apples in eastern and central Canada. Agriculture Canada, Publication 1899/E.

Wang, C.Y. 1999. Postharvest quality decline, quality maintenance, and quality evaluation. Acta Hort. 485:389-392.

Watada, A.E., J.A. Abbott, and R.E. Hardenburg. 1980. Sensory characteristics of apple fruit. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 105(3):371-375.

Watkins, C.B., P.L. Brookfiel, and F.R. Harker. 1993. Development of maturity indices for the 'Fuji' apple cultivar in relation to watercore incidence. Acta Hort. 326:267-275.

Westwood, M.N. 1993. Temperate-Zone Pomology 3rd ed. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon. 523 pp.

Williams, A.A., and S.P. Langron. 1983. Influence of different controlled atmospheres and poststorage temperatures on the acceptability of Cox's Orange Pippin and Suntan apples. J. Sci. Food. Agr. 34:1375-1382.

Wills, R.B.H., T.H. Lee, D. Graham, W.B. McGlasson, and E.G. Hall. 1998. Postharvest. An introduction to the physiology and handling of fruits and vegetables. New South Wales University Press. The AVI Publishing Company Inc., Westport, Conn. 262 pp.

Maria J. Sindoni (2), Frank B. Matta (3,4), and Juan L. Silva (5)

(2) Instituto National de Investigacion Agropecuaria (INIA)- Anzoategui, Venezuela; (3) Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762; and (5) Department of Food Science and Technology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762

(1) Approved for publication as Journal Article No. 10569 of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Mississippi State University.

(4) Author for Correspondence: Box 9555, 117 Dorman Hall; Fmatta@pss.msstate.edu
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Author:Silva, Juan L.
Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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