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17 abril 2024

Challenges and Opportunities: A Report on the Quality and Marketing of Truffled Products in Spain

Truffled products are currently experiencing a significant boom in Spain, with a variety of around 300 different products ranging from sauces and condiments to oils, vinegars, pates and cheeses. However, a recent report prepared by CITA Aragón, entitled “Informe de situación actual de los productos trufados en España” has revealed some concerns about the quality and transparency in the marketing of these products. Sensory and instrumental analysis of several truffled products has yielded surprising results, including the widespread use of the molecule bis(methylthio)methane, intended to mimic the aroma of the black truffle.

With the aim of ensuring the authenticity and quality of truffled products, as well as protecting consumers from fraudulent practices, the report offers a number of key conclusions and recommendations.

Conclusions:

1. wide range of truffled products: there is a diverse variety of truffled products on the Spanish market, from sauces and condiments to oils, vinegars, pates, cheeses, meat products, sausages, pasta, rice and preserves.

2. Food flavorings in the majority of products: Analysis of 51 truffled products showed that 73% contain the molecule bis(methylthio)methane, which mimics the aroma of the white truffle. Some products do not disclose this use or confuse consumers by incorrectly associating it with black truffle.

3. Labeling and authenticity problems: Some products analyzed did not contain the truffle species indicated on the label, indicating a lack of knowledge or questionable practices. A comprehensive traceability protocol is needed to address this problem.

4. Lack of transparency in labeling: Many products do not clearly indicate the truffle species used or the actual percentage of truffle present, making it difficult for consumers to make informed choices.

5. Need for specific regulation: The lack of specific regulations for the commercialization of truffles and truffle products allows the sale of products that do not reflect their real content, leading to deception and economic losses.

6. Differentiation between small companies and large supermarkets: Small companies in rural areas, which use fresh black truffle in their products, stand out for their quality compared to industrial products found in large supermarkets.

7. Education of consumers and actors in the sector: Inexperienced consumers show a preference for products that simulate the truffle aroma through flavoring agents, which highlights the importance of educating about truffle species and product quality.

8. Lack of knowledge about truffle species: Consumer interest in the term “truffle” exceeds that of “black truffle” or “Tuber melanosporum”, indicating a lack of knowledge about the different truffle species.

9. Role of the media: The amount of news related to the truffle demonstrates its economic, gastronomic and social importance, and the media play a key role in market transparency.

10. Need to improve legislation: Legislation varies in each producing country, and Spain needs a specific regulation for the truffle and its products that guarantees transparency and avoids fraud.

Truffle legislation in Spain and in the European Union:

Although the CITA Aragon report highlights the lack of specific regulations for the commercialization of truffles and their products in Spain, it is important to note that the European Union also plays a relevant role in the regulation of this sector. At the European Union level, there is no specific legislation for the truffle, but certain general EU rules apply to the production, marketing and labeling of foodstuffs.

Within Spain, specific truffle-related regulations vary in each autonomous community. This can result in different quality and labeling standards for truffle products, which hinders consistency and transparency in the market.

In contrast, countries such as France have more rigorous regulations that address specific aspects of truffle production, harvesting and marketing. This French legislation establishes clear standards for the marketing of truffled products, which guarantees transparency and protects consumers by ensuring that products bearing the name “Truffle” on their labeling meet certain minimum truffle content criteria. By associating scientific names with common names, any ambiguity about the species of truffle used in the products is avoided…While Italy also has its own law regulating the cultivation, harvesting and processing of truffles.

Given the boom of truffle products in the Spanish and European market, it is crucial to improve the current legislation to ensure transparency and avoid possible fraud. A clear and specific regulatory framework would give consumers confidence and contribute to the sustainable development of the truffle industry in Spain and the European Union.

Consumer preferences and searches:

The CITA Aragon report reveals that consumers with little previous experience in consuming truffle products show preference for those that use food flavorings, such as bis(methylthio)methane, to simulate truffle aroma. This preference may be due to the fact that some consumers are not yet familiar with the authentic aroma of black truffle and find the flavorings more appealing or less intimidating.

Also, analysis of Internet search term tools shows that the term “truffle” generates more interest than “black truffle”, and that the term “Tuber melanosporum” generates no interest at all. This indicates that most consumers lack the necessary knowledge to differentiate between the different truffle species. This can make it difficult for consumers to make informed choices and select quality products.

Education and awareness are essential to guide consumers towards a better understanding of truffle species, identification of flavorings in truffled products and appropriate culinary uses. Information campaigns aimed at product processors, marketers and consumers would help protect consumers, promote the authenticity of truffled products and avoid fraudulent practices.

In summary, the CITA Aragón report highlights the importance of fostering collaboration, establishing specific regulations with transparent labeling, implementing rigorous control systems, and carrying out education and awareness campaigns to improve the quality and authenticity of truffled products in Spain and protect consumers from fraudulent practices.

 

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