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ABSTRACT

The sensory characteristics of sweet potatoes (n = 12 cultivars) with varying flesh color (orange, purple, yellow) and the impact of flesh colors on consumer acceptance were evaluated. A lexicon was developed for sweet potato flavor followed by consumer acceptance testing conducted with and without blindfold conditions to identify if color or visual cues impacted consumer acceptance. Cluster analysis was performed on overall liking scores followed by external preference mapping to identify the drivers of liking for sweet potatoes. The lexicon differentiated sweet potatoes. Appearance (visual appearance) positively impacted liking scores of products that were not well liked but had a lower impact on liking when the sweet potato was well liked suggesting that flavor and texture were the driving attributes for liking. Three consumer clusters were found for overall liking. All clusters liked smooth texture, brown sugar and dried apricot flavor and sweet taste and disliked bitter, umami, astringent mouthfeel, vanilla aroma and residual fibers. Clusters were differentiated by the liking of visual moistness and color homogeneity, white potato, canned carrot and dried apricot flavors, chalky, firmness, denseness and fibrous texture. Sweet potatoes with unfamiliar colors were accepted by all consumers but different sensory characteristics appealed to different consumer groups.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batata) are nutritious and have numerous health benefits. The orange-fleshed cultivars are the most familiar to consumers, but other cultivars with varying flesh color have been identified. The sensory properties of these various sweet potatoes and the drivers of liking are not established. The development of a sensory lexicon for sweet potatoes allowed for characterization of sensory properties and assisted in the understanding of key consumer liking attributes for sweet potatoes. These results can assist sweet potato breeders or marketers in understanding the impact of color and the importance of flavor and texture of sweet potatoes for the consumer fresh market.