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Consumer understanding key to MAP technology, finds study

By Joe Whitworth , 10-Jan-2013
Last updated the 10-Jan-2013 at 13:17 GMT

Consumers are willing to pay more an extended shelf life for meat in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) as long as they understand the technology behind it, according to a study.

However, the desire to pay more decreases when informed about MAP with concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO-MAP).

Grebitus et al looked at consumer perceptions such as MAP increasing shelf life and CO achieving colour stabilization influencing purchase decisions.

Writing in the Journal of Food Protection the researchers found consumers had preferences for brighter (aerobic and CO) red colour and were willing to pay $0.16/lb ($0.35/kg) for each level of change to the preferred colour.

But more information on MAP extending shelf life and CO-MAP on stabilizing colour decreased the willingness to pay and an increase in knowledge and media exposure also had a negative impact.

“The results indicate that information provided to consumers regarding CO-MAP was not adequate to establish a satisfactory level of trust regarding the scientific reliability of CO-MAP options for meat packaging,” said the researchers.

Study background

The study was based on a consumer choice experiment from Iowa State University (ISU) in 2007 and formed three sessions.

Before session one (S1), participants had no additional information (only price and the date of expiration) mimicking the current market situation for most consumers.

Before session two, verbal information was provided about meat shelf life, emphasizing the role of MAP in extending product shelf life. Before S3, verbal information about the role of CO in stabilizing colour was provided.

In the first session, consumers were not willing to pay for increasing shelf life from three days up to five or 14 days.

However, after introducing information on the MAP technology in S2, the 14-day coefficient became significant. Consumers were willing to pay $0.36 more for the additional shelf life compared with the 3-day shelf life after being informed about the use of MAP technology.

Information on the use of CO in S3 reduced the willingness to pay for the longer shelf-life attribute.

The willingness to pay decreased from $0.36 to $0.13 in S3, which is still higher than that in S1 but lower than that in S2.

Colour preference

The product used were 1-lb (454-g) portions of 85% lean ground beef pre-packaged in white foam trays overwrapped with transparent film.

The meat came from a local supermarket (CO-MAP) and the ISU Meat Laboratory.

This project was partially grant funded through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, US Department of Agriculture and supported by Cargill Meat Solutions.

Results in the three sessions suggest that participants preferred brighter red meat in all three cases. Consumers were willing to pay significantly more for the brighter (aerobic and CO) red colour and to add up to $0.16/lb in value for the desirable colour.

Although the amount of money was less, the willingness to pay remained positive, the researchers concluded.

Source: Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 76, No. 1, 2013, Pages 99–107

doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-045

Fresh Meat Packaging: Consumer Acceptance of

Modified Atmosphere Packaging including Carbon Monoxide

Authors: Carola Grebitus, Helen H. Jensen, Jutta Roosen and Joseph G. Sebranek