Educating consumers about new technology for the production of minimally processed foods is critical, according to a recent study.
Findings published in the Journal of Food Science Education said that the knowledge is essential for consumers in order to ensure that they will pay extra for such products.
The authors of the study said that consumers are increasingly demanding food that is minimally processed, additive free and has an extended shelf life, and as such there has been increased interest in the development of non thermal-processing technologies.
They argue that the safety and quality of foods produced by high hydrostatic-pressure (HPP) have not been well communicated to the public, and that emerging technologies often face a stumbling block in consumer acceptance and processing costs.
The authors conducted an online, nationwide consumer survey, that showed there was “very little” awareness of how HPP works.
“Following a brief explanation of HPP and its potential food safety benefits, consumers were asked whether they would be willing to pay increased prices for food products manufactured using HPP if it resulted in the same or better quality and was safer,” explained the authors.
Around 39% of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay an additional cost for ready-to-eat food produced in this way, while 15% of respondents said that they would be unwilling to pay extra.
The authors added that those in the “higher income” and “higher education” bracket of survey respondents made up a large percentage of the consumers willing to pay more for HPP treated products.
The study concluded that women and older people were found to have the highest levels of concern about emerging processing techniques, but the report stressed that attitudes towards technology in general, towards health and nutrition and cultural values are “better predictors of attitudes than demographic characteristics”.