Shuyang Qu, a doctoral student in agricultural education and communication at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study.
Joining Qu were Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, and Tori Bradley, a master’s student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. Rumble’s Florida Specialty Crop grant gave the opportunity to examine consumers’ knowledge of blueberry health benefits.
Qu and her colleagues wanted to determine how much consumers know about blueberry health benefits and see if there’s a knowledge gap with blueberry health benefits among demographic groups. Using their findings, they will identify promotional opportunities for Florida blueberries.
Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 people in 31 states — mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest — to see what they know about the health benefits of blueberries. Most were aware of the benefits of blueberries in warding off cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease. The UF/IFAS study also found that low-income populations tend to know less about blueberry health benefits.
“People being more familiar with blueberries as deterrents for cancer and heart disease may be related to the high general awareness of these two diseases,” Qu said. “The fact that cancer and heart diseases are the leading causes of death in America may have led to more personal research related to preventing the diseases, leading to the respondents being exposed to these findings more than other benefits.”
To help promote blueberries’ health benefits, Qu and her colleagues suggest holding events during blueberry season, such as tastings or u-picks to draw consumers to the crop while providing a vehicle for information about blueberry health benefits.