Consumers face information problems in choosing certain types of foods that best match their preferences and assure satisfaction. For fresh fruits, expectations about the eating experience cannot be assured through external inspection of the product at the time of purchase, nor necessarily through experience. Limited information provided by the supply industry, unexploited product differentiation by marketers, and lack of awareness among consumers of quality attributes, of the intrinsic heterogeneity of fresh produce, can lead to reduced consumer satisfaction, which in turn affects consumption patterns and attenuates the impact of policy initiatives to improve diet and health. The research reported here employed the second price Vickrey experimental auction method to test consumer perceptions of fruit quality by evaluating the willingness to pay (WTP) of consumers for five different varieties of soft citrus under three different information conditions : visual inspection of the fruit before peeling; visual inspection after peeling; and after consumption. Significant differences were found in valuations of the different varieties as consumers gained information. Juiciness, sweetness and acidity were the attributes most closely correlated with WTP under conditions of full information, and also with the overall evaluation of the different varieties. Implications for growers, traders, and for policy are inferred from the results. Growers and marketers must know not only about consumer behaviour in general, but must gather market information about purchasing and consumption behaviour in relation to preferences for specific products. The potential mismatch between the purchase decision and satisfaction poses challenges for policy makers hoping to change dietary habits. In countries where dietary patterns, global food distribution systems and consumption patterns are changing fastest, and where health indicators are most under threat, the message is that governments should continue to engage actively with the food industry in the promotion of healthy products.


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