From the Editor: Understanding consumer tastes

May 27, 2009
Written by
My wife is a very picky flower consumer. Her checklist includes price, colour, uniqueness, and – mostly importantly – fragrance. In fact, if the plant isn’t fragrant, you’d pretty much have to have flowers pulsing neon to pique her interest.

Topping her current list of favourites is the Stargazer lily. It’s relatively well priced, has great flower power, and can easily mask the telltale house odour of a Yellow Lab who likes to roll in leaves or whatever else he can find in the park or neighbour’s garden.

The message to breeders is that there are many consumers looking for more fragrance in their plants, be they cuts, shrubs, flowering trees, bedding plants or potted performers. Fragrance is freshness and a hint of the outdoors.

Pleasing consumers isn’t easy. There’s a great blog I came across on Guardian.co.uk, called Word of mouth, The Observer Food Blog, which is written to “Kick around the gastronomical issues of the day.” The April 29th edition of this year was entitled, “Is the non-leak tomato a sandwich saviour?”

“Tesco has managed to generate inches of newsprint over the last few days with tell of a super tomato that ‘doesn’t leak.’ The new breed, apparently grown in Holland as part of a programme that tested over 100 varieties, was launched with something of a fanfare, Tesco’s tomato buyer claiming that it could revolutionize the world of sandwiches. ‘Tomatoes are one of Britain’s most loved vegetables but unfortunately their juiciness sometimes means that by lunchtime our lovely salad sarnie resembles a piece of wet cardboard,’ she said…” (Editor’s note: the Canadian translation of the English word “sarnie” is “sandwich.”)

The author then skillfully takes us through his or her experience in testing the new tomato against a conventional variety, and engaging his or her workmates in the research on which was tastier and easier to use. “The conclusion was mixed.”

As entertaining as this blog was, it was the reader comments (all 62 of them, including a sonnet) that were most telling.

“I don’t understand this thing about a tomato being juicy,” said one respondent. “When you make a tomato sauce, or sun-dried/oven-dried tomatoes, you are removing the water to increase the flavour. Any good tomato should thus have a low water content.”
 
But others disagreed. “A non-juicy tomato? Yeuch,” said one in summation.

It was a mixed bag of commentaries, all quite interesting. The Brits sure are passionate about their tomatoes. Clearly, it’s a matter of personal taste. Some like tomatoes to be especially juicy, others prefer a little more fleshiness. And if we’re just marketing flowers on colour or shelf-life alone, we’re missing a major consumer segment, according to my wife.

Breeders, growers and retailers have a tough crowd to satisfy. The key is to have something for everyone.

And that’s food for thought as you enjoy the fragrance gently wafting from your dining table bouquet, with a loyal family pet dutifully snuggled at your feet (and mischievously chewing the heel off a slipper), while you savour your bacon-and-tomato – juicy or otherwise – sarnie tonight.

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