Although scientists have known about the umami taste for decades, it is only recently that it has gradually gained wider public recognition as the fifth primary taste. Umami is elicited by l-glutamate, some amino acids and purine nucleotides. Glutamate is found in a wide range of foods but despite that, this taste is not generally included in taste evaluation tests in European countries because it has been found to be hard to conceptualize by the population. To the best of our knowledge, a comprehensive survey on umami familiarity in European countries has not been conducted. Therefore, we chose three countries representative of northern (Finland), central (Germany) and southern Europe (Italy) for our study. Each group contained 300, 271 and 252 participants, respectively. We collected the categorical descriptors spontaneously expressed by volunteers after tasting an umami solution alone, next to the hedonic value perceived in comparison with a watery salt solution and pure water. A significant difference in the hedonic response by country was found. The Finnish sample group used the correct word “umami” at a higher rate (15%) than Italians and Germans (both at 2%). Finland also showed better discrimination between the monosodium glutamate (umami) and sodium chloride (cooking salt) solutions. Overall, the umami taste was rated less pleasant than the salt, females preferring umami more than males, while it was the other way around for salt. Interestingly, a similar percentage of individuals with very low sensitivity for both umami and salt was detected in the countries.
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