Article posted by Paul Rusnak
Muscadine grapes just might be the best kept secret in the South. According to a recent University of Florida-based experiment, more consumers – if already familiar with them — are apt to choose muscadine grapes over other varieties.
Due to the finding, UF/IFAS researchers are trying to expand consumers’ knowledge of muscadine grapes, and they hope that awareness leads to more people buying them.
Right now, muscadines are grown only in the South and are not very well known in other parts of the country, UF/IFAS Food Science Professor Charles Sims points out.
Muscadines are eaten as fresh fruit and also processed into wine, jellies, and other food products.
“They’re full of nutrients and flavor,” Sims says.
Because of their healthy attributes, UF/IFAS researchers have described muscadines as the next potential “super fruit.”
Few studies have examined consumer perception of the fruit. That’s why, for her master’s thesis, Mailys Fredericq, a graduate student in food science and human nutrition, studied 139 participants – 70 of whom considered themselves familiar with muscadine grapes, and 69 who were not. Fredericq found that those who knew about muscadine grapes like their appearance, flavor, and texture much more than those who didn’t know much about the grapes.
Based on her study’s results, Fredericq described muscadine grape consumers as “foodies” — a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking.
The only grape varieties that can be grown in the southeastern U.S. are the muscadines and the other disease-resistant grape varieties created by UF/IFAS over the last 80 years by hybridizing them with their native counterparts.
With better technology for shipping and storage, producers could better market muscadines across the U.S.
Sims, who served as Fredericq’s thesis adviser, said data from the study should prove valuable as American muscadine grape producers try to determine whether to ship their product to farther destinations.