Volatile Changes in Cantaloupe during Growth, Maturation, and in Stored Fresh-cuts Prepared from Fruit Harvested at Various Maturities
Fresh-cut fruit sales have grown in a linear manner, at roughly $1 billion per year, however, sales have lagged behind their counterpart, vegetables, due to complicated physiological and biochemical events that are not as common in fresh-cut salads. Sale trends for fresh-cut salads indicate clearly that consumers will pay for the convenience of fresh-cut, especially when quality is perceived to be better than or equal to the uncut product. Consumers often buy for the first time based on appearance, but repeat purchases are driven by internal quality factors, such as, flavor and texture. Unfortunately, fresh-cut fruit flavor appears to be inconsistent and often does not seem to retain the typical flavor of the whole, uncut product. Little research has been performed toward understanding mechanisms responsible for generation and/or loss of flavor quality in fresh-cut fruits. Since fruit flavor is highly dependent on the initial ripeness (maturity) of the fruit, we therefore performed an analysis of flavor volatile compounds with cantaloupe that were of known age. Whole fruit was sampled during growth, development, and then distinctly different maturity classes were used to prepare fresh-cut cubes. The volatile patterns were monitored through storage of the fresh-cut product, and this manuscript presents some of the key findings. In summary, there is a maturity-dependent volatile recovery, which is; more mature fruit delivers a higher proportion of volatiles upon cutting, and throughout storage. Also, there appears to be a transient increase in many flavor-related esters after fresh cutting, then a decline, often substantial, that usually occurs 7 days after processing. On the other hand, the proportion of important flavor related acetates continually declines after cutting. This data should illustrate to the industry, that product quality is dependent upon initial product maturity, which is essential for continued sales, and enhancing consumer demand of fresh-cut cantaloupe products.