Exotic fruit are identified as those fruit that are not available in large quantities on the market and are novel in their taste and appearance due to their unfamiliarity with consumers.

In recent years there has been a surge of interest toward both the production and consumption of exotic fruit. This increased awareness has developed within the agricultural sector as well as amongst consumers of fresh produce. The resultant effect has been an increase in the availability of a range of exotic fruit on the Australian retail market and a consequent increase in consumer interest in such foods.

Many consumers would appear to be uncertain in purchasing these fruit varieties which bear little or no resemblance to the traditional fruits. Consumers seem to consider risk factors to be too high to actually partake in a purchase decision involving exotic fruits. If consumers were to become more knowledgeable, it is hoped that they would make better choice decisions with less risk and thus consume greater quantities of exotic fruit.

Market planning must be based upon the future patterns of the market evolution. However, before any marketing strategies can be implemented, the target group must be identified along with their information needs for the selection and purchase of exotic fruits.

In this research study, the consumer information needs were identified by interviewing forty female and forty male respondents from a Perth fresh fruit and vegetable consumer retail outlet. The sample group was split in terms of sex to identify whether or not males and females require different types of information to assist in their decision to purchase exotic fruit.

Three photographs of exotic fruits, those being, Jaboticaba, Lychee and Rambutan, were selected and randomly shown to respondents. The exotic fruit photographs were chosen because of the similar size and varying physical characteristics of the three fruit.

Respondents were asked a series of questions concerning the type of information they would like to have in relation to the exotic fruit in the photograph, prior to making a purchase decision.

Each respondent was asked to indicate how helpful such information would be in assisting them reach a decision to buy, or not to buy, these unfamiliar fruits.

The analysis was performed by grouping different types of information into classes relating to varying stages of the purchasing decision. They were:

1. Basic facts about the fruit: its name, where it comes from and nutritional value.

2. Usage of the fruit: how do you use it, how can it be incorporated in dishes and recipe ideas.

3. Written information about the fruit: how do you know when it is ready for eating, which parts of the fruit do you eat, what does it taste like and usefulness of brochures incorporating information.

4. Non-written information about the fruit: demonstrations with and without food tastings.

The basic facts concerning the fruit were identified as being important to a relatively small percentage of respondents as a means of assisting in a purchase decision. Similar numbers of males and females indicated that they would "probably" or "certainly" find information relating to the fruit name and origin as being helpful. However, a greater proportion of the female respondents said that nutrition information would be of assistance to them.

The male and female respondents of the study indicated that information relating to the use of exotic fruits would be helpful when deciding whether or not to buy this type of product. The presence of information relating to the preparation of exotic fruit and recipe ideas would thus appear to be necessary for a promotion programme.

Written information on the fruit was found to be important to most respondents for their decision to purchase. More female than male respondents indicated that they would find a brochure incorporating information relating to the fruit as being very helpful. Reviewed literature suggested that women tend to seek more information than men, which was supported by this study.

The results relating to food demonstrations, either with or without food tasting, indicated a strong preference for food demonstration with tasting. A greater number of male respondents said that the actual tasting of the fruit was extremely helpful in making a purchase decision. These results suggest that the males of the study prefer to use food tasting as a basis for their decision making, whereas females prefer to use written information.

The respondents of the study were asked to indicate how they expected exotic fruit to be packaged. Males and females responded similarly by indicating that packaged exotic fruit would be more acceptable than loose presentation, or any other form of packaging.

The results of the research study strongly suggest that there is a definite need for consumer information on exotic fruit. The results highlighted consumer uncertainty concerning exotic fruits and indicated that there is a high perceived risk when making a decision to purchase this type of product. The risk is mainly related to the price of exotic fruits and the extent of unfamiliarity that consumers experience with the fruit characteristics.

Respondents identified the major information needs as being: fruit name, taste description, how to use the fruit, nutritional value, selection ripeness and what parts of the fruit to eat. A brochure or booklet incorporating all of this information would appear to be advantageous in assisting the reduction of risk in the purchase decision of exotic fruit.

In addition, demonstrations with sample tastings would be extremely helpful.

Overall, there is minimal difference between the information needs of males and females. Marketing strategies could thus be developed to encompass both market groups.

The development of a brochure, including all of the appropriate information, would be an important promotional aid, supplying reliable information to consumers. Further promotions, such as in-store demonstrations and sample tastings, would enhance the overall effectiveness of the marketing strategy.

Jacqueline Fuchs, B.App.c (H.Ec)
Student, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
From: Journal of the Home Economics Association of Australia XX, 4 December, 1988

DATE: July 1990

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