Leonardo Olive Pomace Oil, one of the leading olive oil brands in India, was served a notice by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to withdraw its print advertisement claiming health benefits of the product. The advertisement had claimed that Leonardo Olive Pomace Oil “helps fight cholesterol and heart disease,” “lowers blood pressure,” “controls and prevents diabetes” and “fights cancer.“
In its decision, the ASCI said “Pomace Olive Oil is produced by solvent extraction and has polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are both mutagenic and carcinogenic. This is contradictory to the claim made for Olive Pomace oil in fighting cancer. Additionally, the health benefits of olive oil are from Extra virgin olive oil due to its antioxidant content, which is not present in Pomace Olive oil. Hence misleading claims are portrayed about the benefits of consuming Pomace Olive oil.”
Himani Dalmia, assistant general manager of Dalmia Continental, the company that owns the Leonardo olive oil brand, said in response to a query from Olive Oil Times that the advertisements were withdrawn before the ASCI made its recommendations and the company responded to the complaint in detail, explaining that olive pomace oil is a grade recognized by the International Olive Council and citing the benefits shown by various studies based on its high monounsaturated fat content.
Ms. Dalmia called promoting olive oil in India “not an easy task.” Olive oil marketers in India face obstacles in addition to the obvious ones of low awareness and high prices. One of the difficulties Ms. Dalmia said, was “a tribe of food purists who do not understand the concept of olive oil for Indian cooking. In their zeal to promote only extra virgin olive oil, they fail to understand Indian realities. Consumer complaints against olive pomace oil are mostly a result of this prejudice.”
Following an Olive Oil Times interview with Dalmia Continental Chairman VN Dalmia, India Today published an article last December titled “Pomace is not olive oil and offers no health gains” which stirred debate over Dalmia Global’s promotion of olive oil’s lowest grade.
Another hurdle is a law in India called the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act of 1954. It aims to protect the consumer from misleading claims by prohibiting most health information in advertisements. The rules drafted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also discourage educating consumers about the legitimate health benefits of any food product since everything is left open to the interpretation of food inspectors.
The ad campaign for Leonardo olive oil has now evolved to a more thematic series that aims to define Leonardo as a brand. The company continues to reach consumers about health benefits through its on-ground activities and online promotions.