A home-use test (HUT) is one method that provides a measure of ecological validity as the product is consumed in home under common daily use circumstances. One product that benefits from being evaluated in-home are ready-to-eat (RTE) meals. This study determined consumer acceptance of microwave-thermally-pasteurized jambalaya, a multi-meat and vegetable dish from American Cajun cuisine, and a control (cooked frozen jambalaya) through an on-line home-use test (HUT) over a 12-week storage period. Paralleling the HUT, an online auction determined consumers’ willingness to pay. The study also explored how the social environment may impact the liking of the meals when a partner of the participants joined the sensory evaluation of the meals. Consumers (n
= 50) evaluated microwave-processed jambalaya stored at 2 °C and a control (cooked frozen jambalaya stored at −31 °C) after 2, 8 and 12 weeks of storage. Consumer liking of different sensory attributes was measured. Participants could choose to share the meals with a partner as a way to enhance ecological validity. The responses from 21 partners to the sensory-related questions were collected. After the sensory evaluation, the participants bid on the meal they had just sampled. Results showed that processing method (microwave vs. control) did not significantly influence the measured sensory attributes. Only flavor liking decreased over storage time (p
< 0.05). The inclusion of partners significantly increased (p
= 0.04) the liking of the appearance of the meals. The mean values of the bids for the meals ranged from $3.33–3.74, matching prices of commercially available jambalaya meals. This study found suggests that the shelf- life of microwave-processed meals could be extended up to 12 weeks without changing its overall liking. The study also shows the importance of exploring HUT methodology for the evaluation of consumers’ acceptance of microwave-processed jambalaya and how including a partner could contribute to enhance ecological validity.
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