Providing consumers with what they want

Knowing what consumers want from fresh food will help businesses market and manage their produce after harvest, according to NSW Department of Primary Industries postharvest researcher, Dr Jenny Ekman.

Dr Ekman says consumers are looking for “quality, speed, safety and nutrition in fresh produce".

“Sensory analysis – in which panels of consumers are asked to provide feedback to researchers on fresh food characteristics – is of growing importance to the postharvest industry.

“Understanding consumer perceptions is the key to marketing and the produce management practices required from farm-to-plate”, she said.

Dr Ekman, from DPI’s Gosford postharvest research group, is Manager of the 2007 Australasian Postharvest Conference, which is being held in September this year on the Central Coast.

This year’s conference will for the first time feature an industry day, which will focus on developments in sensory analysis as well as market access, innovative technologies, and linking research to results.

Expert researchers and industry leaders will provide an insight into their methods and results.

Dr Ekman said sensory analysis is uncovering new information about consumer relationships with produce and is providing knowledge that will help industry develop their businesses.

She says keynote speakers at the conference “will present their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities provided in a rapidly changing global market.

“Businesses will be able to find out how research providers can support investment in systems of produce management and marketing which meet consumer needs.”

Dr Ekman said industry would benefit from an improved understanding of the research sector and the expertise available for them to draw upon.

Conference participants will hear about new packaging, storage and transport technologies, as well as innovative approaches to marketing and ways to encourage industry to adopt new technologies.

“Research providers, meanwhile, will gain a better appreciation of the commercial drivers and challenges industries are facing and how their postharvest research can add value to businesses investing in new technologies.

“There is significant strategic value here for all participants”, Dr Ekman said.

Case studies of innovative businesses that have captured the benefits of using new postharvest technologies will be examined.

The scientific program for the Conference includes providing research results in the areas of functional foods, fresh cuts, modified atmospheres for storage, quarantine treatments, produce quality, molecular studies and preharvest effects on postharvest quality.

The Conference theme is ‘Postharvest at Work’. It is to be held from 10-12 September the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Terrigal.