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Call it Spanish and it tastes better

Norwegians have a high opinion of Spanish ham. But if you call a Norwegian ham Spanish, it gets a high score as well.

Norwegian researchers in the TrueFood project studied how much Norwegian consumers liked hams with different salt content and maturation time. The following four types of ham were tested: Norwegian ham with 8% salt - matured for four months, Norwegian ham with 5% salt - matured for 12 months, Spanish ham with 6% salt - matured for 12 months and Spanish ham with 5% salt - matured for 16 months.

The researchers first carried out blind testing, and then tests in which consumers received information about the hams, but could not taste them. Finally they carried out tests in which consumers both received information and tasted the products.

As an extra test, the consumers received incorrect information about some of the samples. They were told that some of the Norwegian samples were Spanish and vice versa.

“The consumers who took part in the test gave a higher score to the Norwegian hams when we told them they were Spanish. That means that Norwegians have a positive attitude to the Spanish craftsmanship and that Spanish hams are perceived as being more exclusive than the Norwegian ones,” says research fellow Valérie Lengard.

Expectations for long maturation

“When we gave information about the hams without allowing the consumers to taste them, the Spanish variety with the long maturation time received the best score. It seems Norwegians perceive Spanish ham to be better and maturation time is perceived as being important for quality,” says research fellow Valérie Lengard.

The Norwegian ham that was more like the Spanish in salt content and maturation got a slightly lower score from the consumers in the blind test. But when the consumers received information about the ham, they had the same expectations of quality for this as for the Spanish one. “This means that Norwegian consumers have a positive attitude to Norwegian varieties of long-matured ham,” says Valérie Lengard.

Everyday Norwegian

In the blind tests, many also gave a high score to the traditional Norwegian ham that they know well. This is the ham with the highest salt content and the shortest maturation. That means the traditional Norwegian ham is well established among traditional Norwegian foods.

It was found that the consumers who preferred the commonest Norwegian ham also responded that they preferred to make well known dishes and dishes they knew they would succeed with. This group is also cautious about tasting new things.

The group that preferred the Spanish hams are far more willing to taste new food and think it is exciting to buy new dishes.

Sensory differences

The hams that were used in this test were also assessed for sensory qualities by Nofima’s sensory panel. The sensory panel characterised the Norwegian hams as juicier and more salty, with more meat taste and more whiteness. The Spanish hams were more sour and sweet and had a more rancid taste and smell and more even colour than the Norwegian.

The meat was tested on 80 people, with equal numbers of women and men, They were aged between 30 and 70 and the criteria for inclusion were that they liked ham and ate it at least once a month.

Norwegians have high expectations of the quality of Spanish ham.