You might think buying a nectarine is as easy as walking into a supermarket and picking a piece up off the tray. But according to SA fruit grower Jason Size, there is so much more work to be done on correct flavour profiling in stone fruit, he embarked on a scholarship to study the topic. Jason is also a flavour profile evaluator, and he says he’s seen quite a variation of stone fruit styles enter the market over the last few years, including acidic, traditional, low-acid and sub-acid. He believes there’s a real problem in the way stone fruit is marketed, as it is simply categorised as a ‘yellow’ nectarine or a ‘yellow’ peach, rather than specific flavour profiles being marketed.
“If a supermarket has put two specific styles of fruit onto the same shelf, then you may get a consumer who traditionally likes an acid-type piece of fruit pick it up, and if it is an acid-type then they’re happy, but if it’s a sub-acid variety, they may not be happy. I wanted to look how we categorise those varieties a little bit better, and I also wanted to understand what the retailers are doing to try and solve this problem,” Jason explains.
“I did find some good examples in the UK sector as well as in some Californian packhouses, where they had a much better relationship with the customer. I also wanted to visit fellow evaluators, so I went to South Africa, I spent a lot of time in California, saw some breeders in some of the other US states, as well as going to London and southern France to see some breeders as well,” he says.
What really stood out to Jason was the good relationship between some of the public breeders and the universities he found on his travels.
“They’ve got a much better relationship in using consumer preferencing tools to really understand what the consumer wants, not just now but in 10-15 years time. Really, it’s looking at that next generation and hopefully if we can get that data out, we can almost predict what we need to be growing for the future,” Jason says.
He says the goals of the industry should be about supplying flavour and freshness to satisfied consumers.
“In general, global stonefruit consumption rates have been decreasing, so if we can give the consumer a much better appreciation of fruit, and get them to come back and buy more, it’s going to be much better for the customer, and also for the grower. This scholarship has given me an opportunity to develop a great network that normally would have taken years to build – the friendships developed within and outside of Nuffield will go with me for a long time in my business and professional life."