Submitted to: Stewart Postharvest Review
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/17/2014
Publication Date: 9/1/2014
Citation: Baldwin, E.A., Bai, J., Ritenour, M., Plotto, A. 2014. Citrus fruit quality assessment; producer and consumer perspectives. Stewart Postharvest Review. 2:1-7. Interpretive Summary: Consumption of citrus fruit and juice is a popular and healthy addition to consumer diets, although consumer preferences for citrus type has changed over the years. Within citrus types, consumption of the historically dominant orange has given way to tangerine. Consumer preference drivers for fresh citrus were found to be freshness, flavor and appearance, and surprisingly not number of seeds or peelability. Understanding consumer preference is important for marketing strategies. Citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing, however, is changing the equation as it is reducing citrus yields worldwide and adversely affecting the flavor of the fruit and juice.
Technical Abstract: Consumption of citrus fruit and juices is popular with consumers worldwide and makes an important contribution to a healthy diet. Nevertheless, consumer preferences for citrus have undergone significant changes over the last twenty years and it is important to understand what consumers are looking for in citrus fruit and juice, and what is driving their decisions. Equally important is to understand important changes in the citrus industry stemming from a devastating disease that is killing citrus trees globally, and how it will effect fruit yields to meet consumer demand, preferences and expectations as this disease affects fruit and juice quality. For fresh fruit, consumption of citrus has declined while fruits such as berries, pineapple, papaya are on the rise. Within citrus types, consumption of the historically dominant orange has given way to tangerine. Citrus Greening disease or Huanglongbing (HLB) meanwhile is devastating the major citrus production areas including China, the U.S. and Brazil. This disease kills the tree in 2-5 years and affects all citrus types. Furthermore, the disease imparts and sour, bitter flavor to the fruit and resulting juice. Consumer preference drivers for citrus were found to be freshness, flavor and appearance although demographic and behavioral variables can impact preferences. Drivers to try a mandarin type citrus were sweetness, shape, acidity and flavor. Surprisingly, number of seeds, fruit size, color and overall appearance were less important. Consumer preferences for the type of citrus fresh fruit or juice is something that has been evolving and will continue to evolve, however, the impact of HLB disease on availability, and therefore, price of citrus fresh fruit and juice as well as flavor quality could be a game changer. Following the trends for consumer preferences of citrus fruit and juice would be useful for development of marketing strategies. More studies are needed to manage the effect of HLB disease on fruit yields as well as fruit and juice flavor.