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Research article2012Peer reviewed

Who's to Blame for Tasteless Tomatoes? The Effect of Tomato Chilling on Consumers' Taste Perceptions

Fernqvist, Fredrik; Hunter, Erik


The most common stated reason to consumer dissatisfaction with tomatoes is lack of flavour. It has been shown that a common storage practice among consumer households is to store tomatoes in the refrigerator, which have a negative impact on tomato taste. Thus, consumer postharvest treatment in home may be a reason to diminishing taste. In a Swedish consumer survey we find that 53 % are dissatisfied with tomato taste and that 74 % store their tomatoes after purchase in a temperature below recommendations. Research done on the effect of tomato storage has led to the suggestion that growers should educate consumers on handling practices in order to remove the negative effect chilling has on taste experience. However, past research has been conducted on samples that potentially do not represent the target consumer, as trained sensory panels do not perceive taste as untrained consumers do. Based on previous empirical studies using expert panels, we hypothesise that panels consisting of ordinary consumers will prefer tomatoes stored in room temperature to those chilled under ordinary refrigerated conditions (i.e. 7 degrees C) regardless of variety. Thus, we replicate and challenge past findings and normative recommendations through the use of two experiments involving consumer panels evaluating two varieties of tomatoes, 'Arvento' and 'Tiesto', stored two days in refrigerator (7 degrees C) and room temperature (21 degrees C) respectively. We found a significant difference in consumer liking for 'Arvento' that were unchilled (M=6.443, SD=+/- 1.765) and chilled (M=5.849, SD=+/- 1.894), t(351)=4.270, p<0.001 (two tailed), albeit with a small effect size (eta squared statistic (.049)). No significant difference in liking was found for the 'Tiesto' variety. We find, contrary to previous research, that storage temperature has no or only a marginal effect on perceived taste among respondents in untrained consumer panels for the two varieties in our trial. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Published in

European Journal of Horticultural Science
2012, Volume: 77, number: 5, pages: 193-198