Preserving farm freshness
Consumer preferences for local value-added products at urban farmers markets
Keywords:Farmers Market, Value-Added Product, Local Food, Food Security, Food Choice, Urban Consumers
Farmers markets (FMs) are known for fresh fruits and vegetables, but many also feature shelf-stable, value-added products (VAPs) like sauces, jams, and fermented produce. Despite the potential importance of locally sourced VAPs to FMs, farmers, and food-insecure communities, few if any studies have examined consumer preferences related to small-batch VAPs of the kind often prepared for sale at FMs. To address this gap in knowledge, this study presents the results of a collaboration between farmers, researchers, and a not-for-profit community kitchen in New Jersey. First, using the Food Choice Process Model as a framework, we conducted focus groups (four focus groups: 6-10 participants per group; 33 participants total) to gain insight into what would make locally sourced VAPs appealing to residents of food-insecure areas. Major themes that emerged were cost, quality, and health; less common themes included culture, food safety, and ethical values. Second, drawing on focus group data, we developed new VAPs—including tomato sauce, applesauce, hot pepper relish and pickled jalapeños—using ingredients from local farms. Third, we conducted controlled sensory evaluations to assess FM customer satisfaction with project-specific VAPs. Urban consumers (N=49) ranked a store-bought tomato sauce significantly higher on taste, sweetness, saltiness, and thickness, compared to the VAP version. However, VAP and store-bought applesauces were comparable across most attributes, and reactions to the hot pepper relish and pickled jalapeños were broadly positive. Overall, findings suggest that locally sourced VAPs tailored to the preferences of particular markets may constitute a valuable addition to the local food landscape in food-insecure areas.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Virginia Quick, Lauren B. Errickson, Graham E. Bastian, Grace Chang, Sarah Davis, Anthony Capece, Ethan D. Schoolman
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