Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Mary Ellen Camire

Second Committee Member

Caroline Noblet

Third Committee Member

Kathryn Yerxa

Abstract

Although steady interest in edible seaweed cultivation continues to grow in Maine, research is lacking regarding consumer preferences and purchasing behavior of seaweed-containing products. The purpose of this study was to determine consumer acceptability of seaweed baked bread and provide insights into purchasing behavior to reveal potential consumer groups that are most likely to buy and eat baked products containing seaweed. Consumer preferences were determined by a sensory evaluation test and an online survey.

Sixty-five participants completed the central location test of freshly-baked bread containing seaweed. Participants were required to be at least 18 years of age, willing to eat bread containing seaweed, and have no known allergies or sensitives to bread ingredients. The three experimental formulations, baked by Big Sky Bread Company, contained sugar kelp meal, sugar kelp flakes, or sugar kelp powder. All kelp products were added as 5% of the weight of flour in a basic white bread recipe. The bread was baked into traditional-sized loaves and sliced by the baker to yield 31 slices. The 9-point hedonic scale was utilized to rate the acceptability of appearance, color, aroma, taste, texture, and overall acceptability. Statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) were found between the seaweed meal and powder bread formulations for all six hedonic attributes. The seaweed flake bread formulation was also liked significantly more than the seaweed powder formulation was for aroma, taste, and overall acceptability. However, it was not found to be statistically different from the seaweed meal formulation. Mean scores for the flake and meal slices of bread ranged from 6.6 - 7.5 (slightly to moderately acceptable). Penalty analysis for Just About Right (JAR) scores related to particle size confirmed consumer's inferred preferences and adjusted overall liking for the seaweed meal bread formulation overall. While only 52% of the consumers would consider buying the seaweed powder bread, over 85% said they would purchase the seaweed flake and meal bread formulations.

An online consumer survey was launched in August 2019. A total of 3,626 people met the inclusion criteria by being 18 years of age or older, living within the U.S., and willing to participate and complete the online survey. Dynata recruited and continually screened participants during the data collection period to meet goals for gender, age, and regional geographic distribution. Data points were analyzed for relationships among consumer interest and seaweed consumption with demographic traits. Seaweed consumption, willingness and frequency of buying seaweed bread, and higher price points had positive associations with younger age, higher income, higher education levels, and those who lived in the Mid-Atlantic, Pacific, and South-Atlantic U.S. regions. Consumers liked the appearance of bread containing the seaweed powder over the other two samples (p < 0.0001); these findings, however, did not agree with the results for the sensory evaluation test. The development of low-moisture seaweed products, such as baked bread, shows promise in overall consumer acceptability, which may prove helpful in future product innovations and marketing strategies.

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