A new study confirms that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a concern for chefs of all levels, owing to strong consumer rejection of the ingredient in the US. Many restaurants are actively avoiding its use. In the study, every chef asked agreed that having no MSG was a positive. The survey showed that sodium reduction and taste were key parameters in their decision to cook healthy food.
The research was conducted as part of an ongoing collaboration between Salt of the Earth, Ltd, and MBA graduate students at the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. The Chopping Block Culinary School, Chicago, also participated. The study was conducted using Umamix, a proprietary savoury mix of quality sea salt and vegetable extracts rich in umami. The distinctive flavour-boosting ingredient is designed to reduce sodium and eliminate need for MSG. It is an all-natural, GMO-free, kosher-certified ingredient.
“This research provides useful insight on professional and avocational chefs and the main factors influencing the ingredients they choose, especially concerning natural flavour enhancers,” says Dror Levy, Food Service Export Manager for Salt of the Earth. “The chefs used Umamix in their recipes and indicated that it had a dual usage, both as a natural flavour booster and as a sodium reduction ingredient.” Flavour enhancers bring strong benefits to efforts by food producers to develop new products and find new ways to engage consumers.
According to the study results of priorities among certain chefs, some stated it is “very necessary” to obtain a certain flavour profile, while others typically try to cook with as little sodium as possible when considering flavour enhancement ingredients. “Sodium reduction is an important characteristic for chefs and ‘foodies,’ but they will not compromise on good taste,” explains Levy. “Umamix successfully reduces sodium in multiple applications by up to 75%. In fact, during a blind taste panel, one of the chefs was unable to distinguish between the original dish and the dish using Umamix.” The research reveals how these chefs purchase and use new ingredients, what factors influence the ingredients they use and what drives them to include Umamix in their culinary repertoire.
For the professional market, the study suggests Umamix readily fulfils applications from the primary standpoint of strict flavour enhancement, but also for healthy cooking and the use of all-natural ingredients. It is thus important to emphasize the product’s multifaceted benefits, including flavour enhancement and salt reduction, to effectively serve the needs of this segment.
About 61% of respondents were familiar with the term “umami,” with most associating it with words such as savoury, flavour and taste. Others gave examples of foods that impart umami, such as truffles, mushrooms and cheese, while some associated umami with MSG.
Professional chefs are generally familiar with umami as a flavour profile. Several mentioned that, in culinary school, umami is taught to be a specific goal, in that the chef produces the umami sensation through the preparation of the dish.
With innovation and quality as its driving principles, Salt of the Earth has been producing sustainable sea salt solutions for the global food industry since 1922. Salt of the Earth’s customers span more than 30 countries on 5 continents. The company controls and tracks sustainable salt resources and works to promote balanced salt consumption through innovative sodium reduction solutions.