Ah, the pleasures of a recently-harvested sliced tomato on a hot summer day. Consumers rate this experience highly and frequently complain that fresh tomatoes they purchase lack the characteristic taste and flavor they desire.
A group of researchers from North Carolina State Univ. conducted a study to establish what attributes consumers desire in fresh tomatoes. The most important tomato attribute was color, then juice when sliced, followed by size, followed by seed presence, which was at parity with firmness. An attractive tomato was red, firm, medium/small sized, crisp, meaty, juicy, flavorful, and with few seeds. The group found that if samples strayed far from these features, the tomato was rejected by consumers. The group used conjoint analysis, a research technique that collects a large amount of data from consumers in a format designed to be reflective of a real life market setting and can be combined with qualitative insight from focus groups to gain information on consumer consumption and purchase behaviors.
The study established that the most important fresh tomato attributes were color, amount of juice when sliced, and size. There were distinct consumer clusters around preference for color/appearance, juiciness, and firm texture.
For more, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1750-3841.12638/abstract