Date of Award

8-2017

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Mary Ellen Camire

Second Committee Member

Adrienne White

Third Committee Member

Denise Skonberg

Abstract

Seaweed, also known as macroalgae, or sea vegetables, provides nutrients and phytochemicals and has traditionally been wild-­‐harvested. Aquaculture of these plants has expanded in Maine and other states without an existing marketing channel. The purpose of this study was to characterize persons in the Northeast United States to inform the seaweed industry on consumer purchasing behaviors and food preferences as they pertain to seaweed. Adults at least 21 years of age that live in one of the Eastern seaboard states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia) were recruited by Survey Sampling International, LLC in October 2016. The survey instrument was administered through Qualtrics software and included the Food Neophobia Scale (FNS) developed by Pliner & Hobden (1992). The total number of respondents was 1,101. However, only 1,065 participants completed all ten of the FNS questions. Respondent gender was evenly split between female, and male; ages ranged from 21-­‐25 years to over 85. Persons aged 61-­‐65 represented almost 20% of the respondents, followed by 21-­‐25-­‐year-­‐ olds (17.7%). Although 503 people said that they had consumed seaweed or a seaweed product in the past year, 491 had not, and 105 persons could not remember. The mean FNS score was 33.7 with a range of 10-­‐70. Demographic characteristics of food neophiles agreed with previously-­‐published surveys of American consumers. Surprisingly, 227 food neophiles and 268 food neophobes had eaten seaweed in the past year. Sushi was the most common seaweed product consumed (n = 367), and salad was the next most common (n = 206). When asked if they would like to prepare meals with seaweed, 59.2% answered with yes, and 54.4% indicated their seaweed purchases would increase if a food demonstration were available where the product was being sold (n=583). These findings suggest that consumers are interested in learning how to utilize seaweed in the kitchen, regardless of FNS scores.

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