Muscadine grapes, food heritage and consumer images: implications for the development of a tourism product in the Southern USA
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure
The present study investigates consumer awareness as it relates to muscadine grapes, a southern US food, and the images that muscadines evoke among southern consumers. The written comments of 189 southern residents were gathered in a southern college town. Respondents' images only partly demonstrate their attachment to this traditional food. For example, while over a third of respondents' comments relate to childhood images (e.g. picking grapes), this finding was much more prevalent among more mature respondents. Overall, a sense of cultural detachment or de-acculturation is suggested regarding the tradition of consuming muscadine by-products (wine, jams), or being involved in harvesting or picking this food in the wild. Surprisingly, the association between muscadine grapes and their health-related components is almost non-existent in respondents' images (5.8%) despite the fact that a large volume of recent information exists referring to beneficial properties found in muscadine grapes. The findings underline the importance for a region to promote consumption and knowledge of its local products, as well as to expand that knowledge outside its boundaries. Such knowledge may assist in the preservation of southern food traditions and potentially market the region as a food and/or culinary tourism destination.