What is more tempting, a tomato produced in Norway or Spain? The results of a recent consumer survey in canteens show that over 80% of people prefer Norwegian tomatoes.

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Last winter, researchers at Nofima conducted a taste test for Norwegian and Spanish tomatoes at five canteens in Rogaland county. The survey is part of the 4-year project BioFresh, led by Nibio and funded by the Research Council of Norway.

A total of 574 people took part in the test, which was based on ranking the two tomatoes they liked the most, and explaining why.

The Norwegian tomato was tested alongside an imported tomato from Spain, which is often found in Norwegian salad bars. Both tomatoes were standard bulk tomatoes between 57 and 67 mm, weighing around 120 g. Price and CO2 footprint did not form part of the survey and are therefore not discussed here. Here are the results of our work:

Most people preferred the Norwegian variety

The survey indicated that as many as 84% of the canteen guests preferred the Norwegian-produced tomato. While 12.7% preferred the Spanish fruit, 2.6% stated that the tomatoes were similar in taste.

On a scale of 1–9, where nine is best, the Norwegian tomato achieved an average score of seven, while the imported tomato achieved 4.5.

The results came as a surprise to researcher Jorunn Sofie Hansen at Nofima. She is responsible for the experiment in collaboration with Geir Håbesland at Brandgarden, Michel Verheul at Nibio and Rune Slimestad at Plantchem.

“The difference in preference is significant in relation to previous taste tests we have conducted in the project,” she says.

More flavour and a more attractive colour

Hanson explains that those who preferred the Norwegian tomato often stated it was because it had more flavour and was sweeter. Some people used words like “fresh” and “sour”. Several people noted that the Norwegian tomato had a more attractive red colour.

Words used to describe the imported tomato were “watery” and “little flavour”. Some thought it was firmer in consistency. Positive comments in this respect were also “fresh” and “sour”.

“We have noted that the quality of imported tomatoes in canteens is low and that consumers express dissatisfaction with the flavour. The test indicates that there are good reasons for the industry to use Norwegian-produced tomatoes in preference to, or in addition, to imported tomatoes,” says Hansen.

Consumption and waste

In connection with the taste test, researchers also measured how much the canteen guests sampled each type of tomato in the salad bar. There, the tomatoes were placed next to each other.

Around three out of four of the tomatoes consumed were from Norway. Consumption of the Norwegian tomato was around 160% higher than the imported tomato.

“This tomato was slightly more red. This probably affected the canteen guests’ choice in the beginning,” says Hansen, before adding that they conducted the test over a period of two weeks at several locations.

“It is therefore likely that the guests had formulated an opinion regarding which tomato they preferred.

In addition to the Norwegian-produced tomato winning the taste test, measurements from the salad bar indicated that it had the least amount of fluid loss.

The test was conducted as follows

  • It was carried out during lunch breaks. Two pieces of each type of tomato were placed in separate bowls and marked with a code.
  • 574 test persons received two bowls plus an evaluation sheet on which they were asked to rank the tomatoes from 1 to 9 (where 9 was best) based on how much they liked the tomatoes.
  • They were then asked to tick which tomato they preferred and, finally, provide a brief explanation of their choice.
  • In addition, both consumption and loss from the tomatoes were measured. Consumption was measured by measuring the weight of the purchased tomatoes compared to the weight at the end of the test.
  • Loss was measured by weighing fluid loss after lunch was over.
  • The tests were conducted in the canteens of Baker Hughes, Evry, Vågen Upper Secondary school, Mediegården, Bergelandsgården. The canteens are operated by ISS Facility Services AS.

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