A generic descriptive analysis using 11 judges provided 16 sensory attributes that described the aroma, flavor, and texture characteristics of 7 nectarine and peach cultivars selected for their predominant sensory attributes. Simultaneously, the “in-store” acceptability of these cultivars was evaluated by 120 consumers from northern California. The relationships among instrumental measurements (flesh firmness, ripe soluble solids concentration (RSSC), and ripe titratable acidity (RTA), sensory panel descriptors, and consumer hedonic responses were studied. In these cultivars, RSSC was the only instrumental measurement significantly related to overall liking. Cultivars with medium acidity and/or flavor/aroma were liked “very much,” and consumer willingness to pay more was correlated with overall liking without regard to cultivar. Cluster analysis revealed 3 segments that were associated with ethnicity and consumer preferences within each segment. Sweetness was the main driver of liking for 2 consumer clusters; however, for the 3rd cluster, the perception of fruit aromas described as grassy/green fruit and pit aromas were the main drivers of liking. There was a high correlation between instrumental measurements and their sensory perception; however, the sensory attribute measurements explained cultivar characteristics better than instrumental measurements alone. Sweetness correlated positively with overall liking and consumer acceptance.
The main objective of this study was to identify drivers of liking for fresh peaches and nectarines in order to understand consumer preferences for these fruits. This information can be used by postharvest researchers to evaluate the potential of new postharvest technologies and consumer acceptance and for plant breeders to develop new cultivars with desirable sensory attributes driven by the consumer.