Smoked salmon: A flavour for every gourmets' taste
The European Union, with the participation of members from the European Sensory Network recently conducted the project "Eurosalmon" to discern which sorts of smoked salmon were preferred by consumers in five European countries.
Smoked salmon is available in an amazingly large array of tasty varieties. Assortments range from salmon with a delicately smoky taste and the texture of silk, to firm, fleshy fish with a tangy, intensive smoked taste. Smoked salmon is considered a delicacy throughout the world, and a discriminating restaurant leaves it off the menu at its own peril.
Out of a total of 117 products sold in French, Belgian, Danish, German, English and Italian supermarkets, food experts chose the 60 which best represented the choice spectrum in those countries.
For the study producers provided fresh samples of these brands. Two to three weeks after production the samples were tested for chemical composition (fat and salt content, phenolic components, TVB-N and trimethylamine content), texture, colour, and microbiological state.
A trained sensory panel separated the samples into 11 categories, according to their sensory characteristics. The main differentiating factors were colour, type and intensity of the smoke component, the fish-note, and the degree of saltiness.
In a second run, which was based on the previous sensory steps, the food experts reduced the selection to the 30 most divergent types of smoked salmon. The researchers then conducted a consumer test in which more than 1000 participants from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and England participated. Each of the participants took part in a total of six sessions. In each session the study leaders presented five different products for the participants to taste and judge.
Commenting on the test results, consumer study leader Huguette Nicod, scientific manager of the French company ADRIANT, said, "Contrary to what we often find with many other products, we did not see a clear national difference in the preferences for the various sorts of smoked salmon. Instead, the preferences were distributed pretty much equally in all five test countries." The study results revealed five almost equally sized market segments, which reflected preferences for markedly different sorts of smoked salmon:
- The first group of consumers liked smoky flavours and smoky tastes.
- The second group preferred low-salt products and were relatively insensitive to "slightly spoiled" sensory notes.
- The third group of consumers preferred lightly salted and lightly smoked "fresh fish notes".
- The forth group liked a strong salted taste with a wood-fire smell.
- The fifth group attached most importance to homogeneous appearance and distinctly orange colour.
Mrs. Nicod stated that, "In general, smoked salmon consumers have high expectations regarding sensory qualities. These are expectations that the producers do not always fulfill. Producers could facilitate consumers' choice of the ‘right’ products by providing concise information on the package concerning the salmon's taste qualities."
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