ITD News

Connecting technical quality parameters of seafood with consumers’ preferences

A new approach for developing tailor-made seafood products adapted to consumer demands has been developed. In order to comply with this, it is necessary to establish collaboration between market experts and food technologists. When looking for the best acceptance in the market of new products it is necessary to investigate consumer preferences. A good approach is the collaboration established between the SEAFOODplus projects CONSUMEREVALUATE and CONSUMERPRODUCTS, which consists of investigating the degree of acceptance of the new products being developed at the Instituto del Frio (CSIC), such as surimi enriched with wheat dietary fibre and minced fish enriched with wheat and grape dietary fibres. The collaboration between market experts and technologists constitutes a new approach in the development of new seafood products.


Author: Domingo Calvo Dopico, Faculty of Economics, University of Coruña, Spain.


Research Stay: Instituto del Frio (CSIC), Madrid, Spain


Domingo Calvo Dopico (right) discussing training programme with Javier Borderias (left) and Mercedes Careche (center) at Instituto del Frio


Consumers’ evaluation and preference does not always coincide with the quality standards fixed by experts – also called objective quality; either consumers may be unaware of what the properties are that determine quality or the consumers may find other, more important attributes that differ from the criteria of technical experts. This gives birth to perceived quality and preferences. Recent research (Grunert et al., 1996; Dopico, 2001; Dopico, 2003) is oriented towards integrating the two approaches - objective quality and consumer preferences - in order to adapt or improve the physical characteristics of the seafood products based on consumer demands. This new approach allows for better connecting characteristics of new seafood products with the real demand of the market. In order to measure the criteria involved, a questionnaire with all necessary parameters was built.


MOTIVATION: Connection between technological development and consumer preferences 

When developing new seafood products it is important that they fulfil market requirements, i.e. adjusting product characteristics to meet consumer preferences. A good example of this approach is the investigation of the degree of acceptance of the new products developed at the Instituto del Frio (IdF, CSIC). The products are based on surimi enriched with wheat dietary fibre and minced fish enriched with wheat and grape dietary fibres. Collaboration has been established between the SEAFOODplus projects CONSUMERPRODUCTS and CONSUMEREVALUATE, in which market experts and technologists are integrating technological orientations (objective quality) and market orientations (preferences or perceived quality). As part of this collaboration the training study described has been performed.



The overall objective of the training activity consists of relating the seafood product’s technological and sensory characteristics with criteria established by the experts within consumer evaluations, in order to determine the level of acceptance of the new enriched seafood products among consumers, and redesign the characteristics, if necessary. Therefore, the aim is obtaining seafood products with textures, colours and appearances that have a higher acceptance in the market.



In order to achieve this objective a new approach has been implemented. This approach integrates expert assessment and consumer evaluation. This integration consists of adapting the products´ technological and sensory characteristics to consumer preferences as shown in figure 1.


Figure 1. Integration of expert and consumer evaluation. Source: Dopico, D.C. (2003)

Phase 1 - Expert assessment: Objective Quality

Traditionally, product quality is based on production parameters and thus considered an implicit characteristic that depends on the inputs and processes used to create the product.  This is synonymous with objective quality - focused on the technical aspects of the product. Experts from IdF have established all the intrinsic characteristics (physiochemical components, nutritional value and functional properties) for the new enriched seafood products. During the research stay I could learn from them – for the case of these new seafood products - all the parameters which determine objective quality. Based on this knowledge, we can analyze how consumers perceive these physical/sensory characteristics, or the functional properties. This is analyzed in the second stage.


Phase 2 - Evaluate how consumers perceive the enriched seafood products; perceived quality and consumer preferences

If it is important to know the technological, functional and sensory properties, it is also important to know how these properties are evaluated by consumers, that is, how these characteristics are perceived? This is what we want to know at this stage. In this phase we examine consumer perceptions of the intrinsic characteristics expressed by experts. A questionnaire was built in order to examine consumer perceptions, i.e. to analyze consumer preferences. By analyzing the consumer product perception both at the moment of the purchase and the moment of consumption, we will discover if the attributes evaluated by experts adjust to market preferences. It is important emphasizing that in this phase it is not only sensory or physical product dimensions that are analyzed, but also other dimensions such as the perceived convenience, health-related benefits and their predisposition to buy or consume seafood products. The study was carried out in March 2007.


Phase 3 - Connect consumers’ evaluations with the physical characteristics

Results derived from this research will permit to implement the last stage. Some preliminary results can be observed in figures 2 and 3.


Figure 2. Product with fibre and its benefits for health generates positive expectations: evaluation prior to tasting was slightly better in the case of product with fibre.
Figure 3. Consumers cannot detect intrinsic differences between products; except attribute fatty/lean and texture. The obtained differences of these parameters were significant.

Acknowledgement: The author wants to thank all members of the team lead by Mercedes Careche at IdF for their support and the collaboration during the whole period of the stay.



Calvo Dopico, D. (2001) Quality and Perceived risk: Analysis of the buying decision making process of food products. Doctoral Theis. University of Coruña.


Calvo Dopico, D. (2003) Labelling, price and packaging as value indicators in aquaculture: An empricial application for fresh mussels, in Quality of Fish: from catch to consumer: Labelling, Monitoring and Traceability. pgs.: 418 - 426, Wageningen Academic Publishers


Grunert, K. G., Baadsgaard, A., Larsen, H. H. and Madsen, T. K. (1996) Market orientation in food and agriculture. Kluywer Academic Publishers, Boston