`Report Finds North Americans Hungry for Olive Oil, Often Misled - Olive Oil Times

Report Finds North Americans Hungry for Olive Oil, Often Misled

By Tom Baker
Jan. 21, 2011 14:21 UTC

A recent report by con­sul­tancy firm Datamonitor on the pro­mo­tion and con­sump­tion of olive oil and table olives in the USA and Canada, has noted that although con­sumer demand for table olives has declined, the olive oil indus­try is in a very strong posi­tion.

The report, which was com­mis­sioned by the International Olive Council, con­firmed that olive oil has gained in pop­u­lar­ity in recent years with pre­dic­tions for both value and vol­ume growth expected to con­tinue to outdo those of other fats, oils and spreads lead­ing up to 2013. Average value increases are expected to be 7.8% with a vol­ume growth fore­cast of 3.9%. These fig­ures com­pare to an over­all indus­try growth of only 3.7% as con­sumers bet­ter under­stand the health ben­e­fits of olive oil and are more will­ing to pay to achieve those ben­e­fits.

The con­sump­tion of fats, oils and spreads in both the US and Canada remains high. Overall it is esti­mated that in kilo­grams Americans con­sume 30 kilo­grams of fats, oils and spreads annu­ally, with the aver­age Canadian con­sum­ing 27 kilo­grams. In terms of calo­rie intake, US con­sumers get 25% of their daily allowance from this sec­tor, com­pared to a Canadian daily intake of 17%. Olive oil was rec­og­nized as com­pet­ing pri­mar­ily for its share in the mar­ket in salad dress­ings, mari­nades, sautés, grills, deep fry­ing and bak­ing. On a sec­ondary basis olive oil com­petes with but­ter and other spreads as a top­ping on bread,
pasta and pota­toes, as well as for some pan-fry­ing appli­ca­tions.

Although the focus on trans-fats has been good for olive oil’s image and sales, it has not seen com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket com­pletely fall away as prod­ucts like short­en­ing and mar­garine were able to adjust their for­mu­las accord­ingly. Other prod­ucts have been seen to latch on directly to the health ben­e­fits of olive oil with­out deliv­er­ing.

This has been par­tic­u­larly evi­dent in spreads, many of which in adding a small amount of olive oil to their exist­ing for­mu­las have been able to cre­ate the idea in con­sumers’ minds that the same ben­e­fits can be applied using these prod­ucts as with olive oil itself. This is how­ever, largely mis­lead­ing as many such prod­ucts incor­po­rate only a very small amount of olive oil among the other ingre­di­ents. The report also sug­gests that claims to health improve­ment in this area may res­onate most highly with those con­sumers who resist mov­ing away from the prod­ucts and spreads with which they have become most famil­iar. It also stated that con­sumers could show reluc­tance to move away from spreads because of con­fu­sion caused by diver­sity within the olive oil cat­e­gory.

On top of this, the study found that in attempt­ing to share health ben­e­fits with olive oil, these prod­ucts cre­ate fur­ther con­fu­sion for con­sumers about the valid­ity of health claims and their rel­a­tive impor­tance. The result is that con­sumers are being con­stantly asked to asses new infor­ma­tion about fats which, when sup­ported by major brand mar­ket­ing bud­gets, dilutes pos­i­tive mes­sages asso­ci­ated with olive oil.

The study, com­mis­sioned by the International Olive Council, has received pos­i­tive response within the indus­try. On Janury 14th, while attend­ing the mid year meet­ing of the North American Olive Oil Association, IOC Executive Director Jean-Louis Barjol announced that an invi­ta­tion would be issued in March for a cam­paign to pro­mote olive oil and table olives in North America in 2011 and 2012, a move wel­comed by the NAOO and for which this study will prove extremely use­ful.


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