UF/IFAS researchers try to expand muscadine grape market
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to expand consumers’ knowledge of muscadine grapes, and they hope that awareness leads to more people buying them.
“They’re full of nutrients and flavor,” UF/IFAS food science professor Charles Sims said of the thick-skinned fruit.
Right now, muscadine grapes are grown only in the South and are not very well known in other parts of the country, Sims said. Apparently, more consumers are apt to buy muscadine grapes if they know about them, at least according to a recent UF/IFAS experiment.
For her master’s thesis, Mailys Fredericq, a graduate student in food science and human nutrition, studied 139 participants – 70 of whom considered themselves familiar with muscadine grapes, and 69 who were not. Fredericq found that those who knew about muscadine grapes like their appearance, flavor and texture much more than those who didn’t know much about the grapes.
Based on her study’s results, Freericq described muscadine grape consumers as “foodies.” For instance, they like other fruits, yogurt, smelling their favorite food and creating their own recipes.
The only grape varieties that can be grown in the southeastern U.S. are the muscadines and the other disease-resistant grape varieties created by UF/IFAS over the last 80 years by hybridizing them with their native counterparts.
Muscadines are eaten as fresh fruit and also processed into wine, jellies and other food products. Because they are full of nutrients and antioxidants, UF/IFAS researchers have described muscadines as the next potential “super fruit.”
But few studies have examined consumer perception of the fruit.
With better technology for shipping and storage, producers could better market muscadines across the United States. Fredericq and Sims, who served as her thesis adviser, said data from Fredericq’s study should prove valuable as American muscadine grape producers try to determine whether to ship their product to farther destinations.
Caption: UF/IFAS food science Professor Charles Sims, seen above, supervised a study done by master’s student Mailys Fredericq, in which they studied consumers’ perceptions of muscadine grapes. UF/IFAS researchers need to know these perceptions before they decide whether to expand the muscadine grape market beyond the South, where it’s grown and well-known.
Credit: UF/IFAS file
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Charles Sims, 352-294-3592, email@example.com
Mailys Fredericq, firstname.lastname@example.org