Abstract: Table olives are healthy and nutritious products with high contents of monounsaturated fatty acids, phenolics, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Understanding sensory cues affecting consumer preferences would enable the increase of olive consumption. The objectives of this study were to characterize the sensory properties of commercial sliced black ripe olives from different regions, including California, Egypt, Morocco, Portugal, and Spain, and to examine the preferences of California consumers for sliced black ripe olives. Sensory profiles and preferences for 20 sliced olive samples were determined using descriptive analysis with a trained panel and a consumer test with 104 users and likers of table olives. Aroma and flavor characteristics separated the olives according to country of origin, and were the main determinants of consumer preferences for sliced olives, even though the biggest differences among the samples were in appearance and texture. Total of 2 consumer segments were identified with 51 and 53 consumers, respectively, that both liked Californian products, but differed in the olives they disliked. Negative drivers of liking for both segments included alcohol, oak barrel, and artificial fruity/floral characteristics; however, consumers from Cluster 1 were further negatively influenced by rancid, gassy, and bitter characteristics. This study stresses the need for sound and appealing flavor quality for table olives to gain wider acceptance among U.S. consumers.
Practical Application: The characterization of the sensory properties of domestic and imported sliced black ripe olives and the identification of the preference patterns of California consumers for the products in this research will assist producers, importers, and legislators in their efforts to improve the sensory quality of sliced black ripe olives in the United States and to better market these products to U.S. consumers.