Shoppers happy to pay extra for foods using new technology – as long as it is considered safe

Posted by Editorial on 16th April 2009

Consumers are willing to pay more for food processed using new technology once they understand how it works and what it does, according to a study presented in the Journal of Food Science Education, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

To meet consumer demand for food that is minimally processed, additive free and has an extended shelf life, there has been increased interest in the commercial development of nonthermal-processing technologies. High hydrostatic-pressure processing (HPP) involves the application of hydrostatic compression and varying process temperatures that make microorganisms inactive. Product development and distribution of HPP foods continues to grow in countries such as Japan and the US, with the introduction of new products such as salsa and whole pressure-shucked oysters. HPP has been successfully applied to ready-to-eat meats, and some processed fruits and vegetables, jams, yoghurt and rice products, the IFT reported.

In the survey, done by an online survey clearinghouse and sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), several hundred consumers were given an explanation of HPP and its benefits. Forty per cent of respondents said they would be willing to pay an additional cost for high-pressure processing of ready-to-eat food, with only 15 per cent saying they would be unwilling to pay. The remaining 45 percent were unsure about whether they would be willing to pay extra for safer measures.

“New technologies often encourage a stumbling block in consumer acceptance and processing costs,” say the researchers, who are affiliated with the University of Delaware and University of Rhode Island. “A consumer’s willingness to pay, once they were informed, could encourage industry to look favourably on this technology.”