Peaches more marketable to younger people, but everyone wants the fruit to melt in their mouth

 

Peaches attached to a peach tree. Fruit, stonefruit, horticulture. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Young consumers are more likely to buy peaches than older people, and those 18- to 24-year-olds prefer crisp, firm peaches with good flavor, a new University of Florida study shows.

In fact, people aged 51 to 68 are the least interested in buying peaches. Those of that age who do buy peaches prefer sweet, melting-texture peaches. Although they did not study the reason older people don’t like peaches as much, UF/IFAS scientists think older consumers may have repeatedly bought poor-quality peaches in the past, triggering an interest in other fruits.

“It was refreshing to see young consumers being interested in purchasing fruit and peaches in particular,” said Mercy Olmstead, assistant professor in horticultural sciences and lead author of the study. “Most of the breeding efforts here at UF have been directed toward peaches with non-melting, firmer texture, so having the younger generation prefer crisp, firm peaches was exciting.”

Overall, consumers want sweet, tasty peaches that melt in your mouth, she said.

In the newly published study titled: “In Pursuit of the Perfect Peach,” Olmstead led an experiment in which 300 consumers took an online survey, then sampled peaches at two Florida farmers’ markets.

The study showed the “ideal peach” depended on combinations of fruit qualities. Peaches labeled as “so sweet … no sugar was needed” were most likely be purchased, reflecting what previous UF/IFAS research has found about strawberries and blueberries. Furthermore, like the prior UF/IFAS research on blueberries, even though peaches are known to contain antioxidants, consumers buy them more for their taste than their nutritive value, the study showed.

Although consumers wanted sweet, absolute sugar concentrations, there is something other than sweetness that leads to overall liking, the study showed. It could be acid content and aromas, Olmstead said.

What do consumers not want? Mealy, pasty, dry peaches, another mirror of the UF/IFAS studies on blueberries and strawberries.

Most consumers prefer melting peaches, but small segments also like crisp and firm fruit, the study showed.

“The fact that consumers desire both melting and non-melting texture peaches reinforces the fact that there are market niches for many types of peach textures,” Olmstead said. “For example, great strides have been made to offer fresh cut peaches that require firm peach varieties.”

Peaches are grown on about 1,200 acres in Florida, and Olmstead and other UF/IFAS scientists are exploring ways to increase the Florida peach’s reach in the global market. Florida peaches are distributed mainly in the eastern U.S., with more nationwide distribution predicted in the next five years.

From a botanical standpoint, peaches, considered a “stone fruit,” are classified by their texture as either melting, non-melting or stony hard. Melting flesh peaches become softer as they ripen and will essentially “melt in your mouth” when they are mature. Non-melting flesh remains firm when fully mature, and are typical for use in commercial canning.

Florida’s stone fruit breeding program has focused on non-melting texture peaches for fresh consumption, so the fruit can remain on the tree longer and develop better aroma and flavor without sacrificing firmness, Olmstead said. If they’re harvested while ripe, melting-texture peaches are more likely to deteriorate while being shipped. But this experiment showed consumers want melting texture in their peaches, a trait breeders may want to consider, she said.

 The study is published online in the August issue of the journal HortScience.

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Caption: Younger people are more likely to buy peaches than older consumers, but when we buy peaches, we all want sweet, melt-in-your mouth peaches, according to a new University of Florida study led by Mercy Olmstead, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in horticultural sciences.

Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Mercy Olmstead, 352-273-4772, mercy1@ufl.edu