Increased value creation of Norwegian Brassica vegetables – mapping sensory quality and plant compounds to improve consumer choice
The consumption of vegetables has increased over the last years, but the sales of cruciferous vegetables (Brassica, cabbages) has been stagnant. Increased awareness of taste can increase sale of cabbage.
01. Jan 2016
30. Apr 2020
Agricultural Agreement Research Funds (FJM)
NIBIO (Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy), the Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service (NLR), BAMA Group AS, Gartnerhallen SA and their producers, NORGRO AS, LOG AS and the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) in Germany.
In 2016, a new research project was launched that involves the entire value chain. The aim is to make Brassica vegetables more attractive – and find the answer to whether you have to choose between good taste and a high content of health-promoting plant compounds.
For BAMA, who is a central player in the project, the aim is to double the value creation for cabbage products in Norway.
– When people hear the word cabbage, they usually think of white cabbage heads. However, there are over a thousand varieties of cabbages, and we think that there is a large potential to increase their consumption. The point is to understand the product even better, so we can offer the right cultivar with the right taste at the appropriate time, says Jens Strøm, research director in BAMA.
Cruciferous vegetables are healthy – a good source for essential nutrients, fiber and health-promoting plant compounds. However, many of the plant compounds give a bitter taste, and in addition, the quality of the cabbages varies. To tempt consumers to eat more cruciferous vegetables, they have to know what they get; the consumers’ expectations on taste and possibilities for cooking use have to be met.
Researchers are going to map:
- Sensory attributes for different cultivars of cauliflower, cabbage and leafy cabbage.
- How nutrient- and water availability influence both sensory attributes and content of health-related plant compounds.
- The relationship between sensory attributes and content of plant compounds.
Sensory maps for cabbage
By using Nofimas trained sensory panel, the selected varieties and cultivars of the cruciferous vegetables will be placed in a sensory map to assess the different sensory characteristics of each of the cultivars. The panel will assess between 30 and 40 different cultivars in the categories of cabbage, cauliflower and leafy cabbage throughout the long growth season that cruciferous vegetables have.
Brassica vegetables are often bitter in taste but bitterness influences how well consumers like the product; some degree of bitterness can be positive while too much can be negative. The bitter taste, its impression and prominence, will therefore be central in the sensory map.
– Through knowledge on the sensory attributes of single plant compounds and their position in the sensory map, we can find the answer to what type of cultivar the consumer prefers, says Margrethe Hersleth, researcher at Nofima.
Significance of growing conditions
Researchers and cabbage growers together will look at the growing conditions that influence the sensory quality and how growth factors like nutrient- and water availability can be used to achieve the desired quality. They will also monitor what significance the growing conditions have in determining the content of health-related plant compounds.
The chemistry behind taste and health content
There is an important question that the researchers want to find an answer to: Do you need to choose between good taste or high content of health-promoting plant compounds?
– We are going to use advanced chemical analysis tools to examine the relationship between sensory attributes and the plant compounds of interest, both in fresh cruciferous vegetables, right from the field, but also at the time when the cabbage is chewed and digested, says project leader and senior researcher Grethe Iren Borge in Nofima.
Norwegian and German researchers are going to cooperate on the use of an analysis method called “real time analysis of flavor release” based on mass spectrometry.
– It is exciting and new research to learn more about the molecules that are released in the mouth and how they are related to the taste sensation, says Grethe Iren Borge.
Advice to growers, retailers and consumers
In this project, the research environments of Nofima and NIBIO, together with counselors from the Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service, retailers from BAMA group and Gartnerhallen SA with their associated growers and the seed companies NORGRO AS and LOG AS will work closely together. Already at the idea-stage there were defined demands and ideas from all involved partners – and a strong agreement that the time is right to get more systematic knowledge on all the gorgeous cruciferous vegetables we can grow in Norway. Many of them are not yet tested by Norwegian producers.
– The knowledge about variation in the characteristics of cruciferous vegetables will be pursued in practical guidelines for growers, retailers and all the way to consumers. There is a large potential for product differentiation, for example to promote products for different use, concludes Grethe Iren Borge.
Facts about the project
CabbageTaste (KålSmak) is the short name for the research project “Increased value creation of Norwegian Brassica vegetables – mapping sensory quality and plant compounds to improve consumer choice”. The project is a 4-year competence project with involvement of the industry, financed by the Research Funding for Agriculture and the Food Industry.
Nofima, with senior researcher Grethe Iren Borge, is the project leader. Other participants include NIBIO (Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy), the Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service (NLR), BAMA Group AS, Gartnerhallen SA and their producers, NORGRO AS, LOG AS and the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) in Germany.
The competence to understand more about the relationship between sensory attributes and health-related quality in Brassica vegetables builds on research done for several years within Nofimas strategic programs “Sensory strategies and consumer insight for healthy and tasty food” and “Food for better health: Bioactive plant metabolites in berries, fruit and vegetables”, financed by the Norwegian Agricultural Agreement Research Fund.