Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 26, 2006
Publication Date: June 30, 2006
Citation: Lester, G.E. 2006. Consumer preference quality attributes of melon fruits. Acta Horticulturae. 712:175-182.
Interpretive Summary: Current and future consumer demands for melons will include sustained or improved concentration of human wellness compounds and sensory attributes, along with a reduced potential for microbial contamination either as a whole or as a fresh-cut fruit product. Replacing netted cantaloupe (C. melo L. reticulatus group) with orange-flesh honey dew (C. melo L. inodorous group) provides the processor and the consuming public with a sweeter, nutritionally richer, superior tasting, and microbe-safer product. Reduced potential for microbial contamination along with a nutritionally rich melon product, especially in the ever increasing fresh-cut market, are important sales attributes that retail chains can use to both inform the consuming public and increase demand for this highly popular fruit.
Sweet melons (Cucumis melo L. plus Citrullus lanatus L) are the most popular fresh fruit, based on per capita consumption, in the U.S.A. Cucumis melo (muskmelons) are the only fruits in the U.S.A. to have a 2.3 fold increase in consumer demand over the past 35 years. Preference attributes expressed by consumer panelists of whole, fully mature muskmelon cultivars, following harvest and commercial storage, evaluated for appearance, color, flavor, odor, sweetness, texture, and overall acceptability are highly discernable for specific sensory attributes. Muskmelon attributes that correlated most strongly with overall fruit acceptability were flavor (r = 0.97**) coupled with fruit sweetness (r = 0.97**) followed closely by fruit texture (r = 0.95**). Flavor was highly correlated with fruit sweetness (r = 0.99**) and fruit sweetness was highly correlated with soluble solids concentration (r = 0.61**). Fruit flavor is the first quality attribute to be altered during whole muskmelon fruit storage, and in the now popular fresh-cut product. Maintaining desirable muskmelon fruit sensory attributes along with microbial safety and human wellness compounds (e.g. b-carotene, folic acid, vitamin C, and potassium) in whole as well as fresh-cut fruit throughout distribution and marketing is a challenge. But these attributes can be managed through cultivar selection (orange-flesh honey dew better than orange-fleshed netted melon), production location (clay better than sandy soil), enclosed in plastic, and storage temperatures (4 degrees C better than 10 degrees C).