Consumer expectations for vegetables with typical and atypical colors

The case of carrots

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The variety of fruits and vegetables in today’s supermarkets is enormous. We investigated how color may lead consumers to anticipate differences in product properties. Forty volunteers rated the expected properties for carrots with different colors presented in pictures, together with their familiarity, purchase intention, and intended preparation method on 7-point scales. We found most positive expectations for the typical and most familiar kinds of orange carrots. Lower saturation of orange was associated with lower attractiveness and freshness, whereas higher orange saturation was evaluated as more artificial. Brown spots on carrots were associated with disease and such carrots were regarded less healthy. Carrots in atypical colors were rated as less familiar, attractive and healthy than orange ones. In comparison with the orange carrots, red carrots were expected to taste sourer and spicier, purple and yellow carrots were rated less nutritious and more artificial, with purple carrots expected to taste more bitter and yellow ones more sour. White and white-green carrots rated
lower on sweet, and higher on sour, bitter, and spicy. These carrots were considered less ripe and less nutritious than orange ones. These results indicate that color hue and saturation have substantial impact on consumers’
expectations about sensory and functional properties, including freshness and nutritional value. Some of these expectations may be derived from associations to other vegetables, as reflected by high ratings for spiciness (red pepper) and taste intensity (turnip, radish). However, low attractiveness ratings also suggest that consumers may be reluctant to try unfamiliar variants, at least at first glance. Although atypical colors produce culinary opportunities, commercial success may be limited until consumers integrate them in their everyday habits.