Obtaining superior quality varieties are one of the main objectives of fruit breeding programs worldwide. In this study, we investigate employing check-all-that-apply (CATA) questions, which include the ideal product, as a method to select new varieties according to consumer organoleptic quality requirements. To this end, mandarin cultivars were used as a case study. Four new cultivars from the IVIA breeding program (‘Pri-88′, ‘Pri-89′, ‘Pri-90′ and ‘Tri-707′), and two commercial cultivars related to them (‘Clemenules’ and ‘Oronules’), were evaluated by a consumer panel using the CATA questions method, which include their ideal product. Our results reveal that this method is a useful tool for selecting varieties based on consumer descriptions of their sensory properties in relation to those of their ideal cultivar. This allows the different consumer preference patterns and differences in sample perceptions to be taken into account. A penalty analysis was performed, including the ideal product, to identify the “must-have” attributes; i.e., those that consumers included in their ideal mandarin description and, whenever present in samples, they significantly increased acceptance. For the mandarins herein evaluated, these attributes are “refreshing taste”, “very aromatic”, “sweet”, “juicy”, “very intense taste”, “sour” and “not very fibrous”. The fruit characteristics that contributed to improve the quality of the new varieties vs. the original varieties were also identified. ‘Pri-89′ and ‘Tri-707′, obtained from ‘Clemenules’, came closer to consumers’ ideal variety, because besides the aforementioned “must-have” attributes, these mandarins have small segments. ‘Pri-90′ implied improvement in relation to ‘Oronules’ and is an appropriate variety for those consumers sensitive to bitterness and who like mandarins with a certain level of sourness.
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