Cheap smoked salmon does industry no favors
By Mike Urch, SeafoodSource contributing editor
03 January, 2011
Smoked salmon has become one of the most heavily promoted food items in British supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year. Just before Christmas, for example, Marks & Spencer sold large packs of three different types of smoked salmon — two Atlantic and one Pacific — at 50 percent below its regular price.
Price cuts of this magnitude will certainly attract customers. But are consumers getting a good deal when they purchase smoked salmon at this time of year? The Daily Telegraph carried out a taste test on food products, including sliced smoked salmon, being sold by British supermarkets just before Christmas. The results are depressing.
It is perhaps not surprising that the more expensive products on offer at the upmarket chains, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, come out on top, being awarded five stars and four stars, respectively.
The 140-gram pack of organic salmon, smoked over oak and sold by Waitrose for GBP 5.99 (USD 9.28, EUR 6.95), had a “lovely color, clean fresh flavor, lean, nice mild smoke, each slice separate with a good texture. Can taste the fast-moving, clean waters off Orkney where this salmon originates.” While the 200-gram pack of wild Orkney smoked salmon on offer at Marks & Spencer at GBP 7.99 (USD 12.38, EUR 9.27) had a “good taste, color and texture.” It was “lean and mild; in fine, thin slices” and “tastes fresh and clean.”
The 125-gram pack of best Applewood smoked salmon on sale at Morrisons at GBP 3.99 (USD 6.18, EUR 4.63) was judged to be “quite dry, not too fatty, rather sticky, but with a good taste of pepper and a pleasing hint of lemon. Pleasant to eat.” It was given three stars.
Tesco’s 125-gram pack of Finest Hickory-smoked Shetland Isle salmon at GBP 3.99 (USD 6.18, EUR 4.63) was said to be “greasy, slimy, too fatty. Hickory smoke is strong but has a good flavor, fish doesn’t taste very nice.” It received a single star.
The remaining two samples didn’t get any stars at all. Discount chain Aldi’s 150-gram pack of Almare luxury sockeye smoked salmon at GBP 2.99 (USD 4.63, EUR 3.47) had the “texture of reconstituted salmon, with an overwhelming smoke flavor.” It was “lurid orange in color” and “very unpleasant.”
The result for the 120-gram pack of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference oak-smoked salmon at GBP 4.59 (USD 7.11, EUR 5.32) was surprising given that it was sold under the supermarket’s premier label. The product had a ‘high pink color, quite an aggressive smoke, slices sticky and soft and sticking together, fatty flavor. Doesn’t taste like fish.”
Smoked salmon from Asda, the fourth biggest UK supermarket chain, wasn’t tested.
The Aldi sample was obviously Pacific salmon, and although there was no indication of where the Morrisons and Sainsbury’s salmon came from, it was presumably farmed Atlantic salmon from Scotland.
The Daily Telegraph said that the results of the taste test demonstrated that “when you’re dealing with mass-produced party food, the depressing truth, as this taste test suggests, is that you get what you pay for.”
The key to the results, of course, lies in the words “mass-produced.” Smoked salmon is no longer the luxury item that it was in the days before salmon began to be farmed in ever increasing quantities and became a commodity item and priced accordingly. However, does the smoked product have to sink to the level that the taste test indicates?
The answer, of course, is “no.” However, if UK supermarkets believe that price is the determining feature to attract sales, then the future for the smoked salmon industry is bleak.
Are customers really going to purchase products more than once with the texture of reconstituted salmon, an overwhelming smoke flavor and a lurid orange color. Or if it has a high pink color, quite an aggressive smoke, the slices sticky and soft and a fatty flavor?
It is highly probable that not only will they not purchase these products again, but will also tell their families and friends not to buy them, or indeed not to buy smoked salmon. And how does that benefit the industry?
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03 January, 2011