|Abstract or Summary
- Potato varieties characterized by non-conventional skin and flesh colors (purple, red, yellow) have the potential to revitalize consumer demand for fresh market potatoes because of their unique appearance and health benefits. Red and purple potatoes contain anthocyanins, which are flavonoids responsible for red, blue, and purple pigments in plants. Yellow potatoes contain carotenoids, which are xanthophylls responsible for orange and yellow pigments in plants. Both anthocyanins and carotenoids are antioxidants that benefit human health. The objective of this thesis research was to investigate consumer acceptance of colorful fresh market potato varieties and to understand the effect of health information on purchase intent. This thesis research was divided into three studies, preceded by a literature review. The literature review summarized research linking raw tuber characteristics to the culinary quality of fresh market potatoes. Specific compounds, genes, and processes affecting potato appearance, flavor, and texture were reviewed. In the first study, consumer attitudes and opinions about colorful fresh market potatoes were investigated using four focus group sessions with a total of 37 participants. Five colorful potato varieties were shown to participants. Purchase intent for each variety was marked on an anchored line scale after: 1) seeing and handling the raw uncut potato, 2) seeing a photo of the raw potato cut in half, 3) seeing a photo of the potato cooked (boiled) and cut in half, and 4) after receiving health information describing antioxidant benefits. Reactions to colorful potato varieties were mixed. Health information had a greater impact on purchase intent than the photos of the raw and cooked potatoes. Purchase intent was also influenced by positive and negative associations with appearance, concerns about genetic engineering, tampering, and chemicals, preparation and presentation considerations, point of sale, family acceptance, and anticipated flavor. In the second study, a consumer acceptance test with 222 participants evaluated six colorful fresh market potato varieties alongside a commonly available variety, the Yukon Gold. Participants rated liking of overall appearance, color, size, and shape for raw uncut potatoes on a 9-point category scale. Participants tasted the potatoes boiled and rated liking of cooked appearance, flavor, and texture on a 9-point category scale. Participant comments describing what they liked and/or disliked about each raw and cooked potato were also captured. For color, yellow and red varieties were accepted over purple varieties. For shape and size, large and round varieties were accepted over small, elongated varieties. Bimodal hedonic score distributions were observed for purple color, small size, and elongated shape. Consumer comments revealed that a uniform raw and cooked appearance, a distinct flavor with no undesirable aftertaste, and a smooth, firm, and consistent texture were all desirable characteristics. In the third study, the effect of health information on purchase intent for colorful fresh market potatoes was investigated. Participants either received no information, a simple statement, or a detailed statement about antioxidants in colorful potatoes. After reading the information, participants rated purchase intent on a 5-point category scale at a low, medium, and high price. The effect of antioxidant information on the probability of purchase for red and purple potatoes was compared to yellow potatoes. The impact of hedonic rating, price, gender, age, education, income, usage frequency, health interest, food interest, and antioxidant knowledge were also investigated. High hedonic ratings and interest in food had a positive effect on purchase intent for all potatoes. High price had a negative effect on purchase intent for all potatoes. Antioxidant information and interest in health had a positive effect on purchase intent for red and purple potatoes. Age had a negative effect on purchase intent for red and purple potatoes. An advanced degree of education had a negative effect on purchase intent for yellow potatoes.