Consumer experiences of tomato quality and the effects of credence
Sammanfattning: Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the most important horticultural crops and is produced, traded and consumed all over the world. For horticultural products, the concept of quality is an indispensably important factor in consumers’ decision-making process and choice. While production efficiency and other production and distribution related properties have been in focus within the tomato industry, less focus has been on consumer experiences and satisfaction with, for example, taste. Beside physical properties of a horticultural product, there are also other quality attributes, which are related to personal values or trust: so-called credence characteristics. For example issues regarding morals and ethics, individual considerations such as health and convenience, or preconceptions related to factors such as origin or production method. While the consumers cannot accurately evaluate credence characteristics, the expectations they generate have an effect on consumers’ perceived quality and sensory experiences. Labels of various kinds signalling credence characteristics play an important role in the modern food marketing system, as other links of trust and direct relations with the producers have vanished within the globalised food system. In this thesis, Tomato is used as a reference product with the aim of explaining the multi- faceted notion of quality of horticultural products and its role in marketing. The aim is to provide an understanding of how the concepts of quality and consumer experiences and responses are related, with focus on consumers’ experience with taste. The first paper in this thesis study consumer views on tomato taste and assesses the effect of chilling on taste. The second paper examines consumer views of some of the most common and important credence characteristics; origin and production method; and explores their effect on consumer liking. The third paper delves further into credence and the effect on consumer liking, and correlates consumer attitudes with experienced quality. The fourth paper is a literature review on recent published papers on the topic, and proposes a conceptual framework describing the effect of credence on consumer liking of food Theoretical, methodological and practical implications are discussed. Possible future directions for horticultural marketing strategies are identified; for the horticultural sector in general and the tomato industry in particular.
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