Borges, one of the renowned olive oil producers and exporters from Spain, has recently entered the Indian market. Initially rolled out in the major metropolitan regions, the company plans to extend its distribution network to 36 Indian cities and towns in 2011. The Borges Group has a presence in over 100 countries and has long-term plans for India, including a foray into olive cultivation. In an Interview with Gita Narrayani of Olive Oil Times, Dr. Rajneesh Bhasin, Managing Director of Borges, India talks about the products and the ways to popularize this healthy cooking medium in the huge Indian market.
GN: What were the reasons behind the selection of India as a market for the products of Borges, especially olive oil?
Bhasin: Indians have turned extremely health conscious in their food habits in recent times and are open to the idea of exploring new tastes and flavors. Changing lifestyles too have led to growing awareness about health, nutrition and the need to start eating and living healthy. The Indian consumer has evolved a lot and she is aware of the global trends and aspires to adopt brands that provide the right value. ‘Active Health’ is on the top of her agenda. She is extremely conscious of the lifestyle-related diseases that are affecting our lives. She is increasingly concerned about the health of family members and continuously looks for changes/ improvements that can make them healthy.
Borges stands for providing the consumers with the benefits of diet based on values of Mediterranean life across the globe and we aim to do that in India as well. Hence, Borges has set up a 100% subsidiary in India which is a first for a Mediterranean food specialist – this itself signifies the priority that we accord to India as a market.
GN: Borges Extra Light Olive Oil has been “specially designed for the Indian consumer” with its light flavor & aroma; has it proved popular in your test market?
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Bhasin: Borges has launched an Extra Light olive oil variant that is suitable for the Indian way of cooking. This variant of olive oil was specially introduced for consumers who want the goodness of olive oil, but do not want the strong aroma and flavor of the oil to interfere with the spices and condiments used here. I am glad that the consumers have accepted the concept and the response to the oil has been encouraging.
GN: There is a perception that olive oil is not suitable for the different types of Indian cuisine, due to its flavor. What is Borges India doing to dispel this wrong notion?
Bhasin: It is very critical to make olive oil and its variants relevant to the daily lives of the Indian consumer. We are addressing this through effective communication. In the initial stage, we have identified relevant usage occasions for each one of the Borges olive oil variants which form an integral part of the brand communication. We understand the need to dispel myths related to the use of this wonder product and help understand the immense benefits and are prepared to take up this challenge.
GN: Is Borges Extra Light Olive Oil similar in any way to olive pomace oil that some companies are marketing here as a suitable medium for Indian cooking?
Bhasin: Borges Extra Light Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with extra virgin olive oil. This variant has a very mild taste and is best suited for Indian cooking, as it ensures that the dish retains its original taste. This olive oil variant is specifically launched for the Indian market to offer consumers the goodness of olive oil without the pungent taste.
Borges Extra Light olive oil is not similar to pomace olive oil as there is a difference in the way the two variants are extracted. Pomace is that part of the olive (skins, pulp, seeds, and stems) that remains after all the oil and water in it has been removed by pressuring or centrifuging processes. Pomace oil is obtained by applying heat, solvents, or hot water to the pomace. On the other hand, Borges Extra Light olive oil is obtained by refining the olive oil (which is obtained from pressing the olive fruit but not suitable for direct consumption) and then blending it with extra virgin olive oil. Due to this difference globally and in India as well, olive oil is priced at 70 – 80% premium over pomace olive oil.
GN: In the traditional olive oil-consuming countries, olive pomace oil is not used for cooking due to its composition, whereas it is being marketing in India as an oil that is particularly suitable for Indian cuisine. What are your views?
Bhasin: Borges is committed to providing quality products to its consumers. As a policy, we do not focus too much on the pomace variety of olive oil. Most mature markets with high quality standards like Spain and the USA do not allow the sale of pomace as a cooking oil.
GN: We believe that Borges India is planning a campaign that will promote fitness by stressing health awareness and the benefits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. Has this campaign been launched yet?
Bhasin: We have already crafted out the differentiated positioning for brand Borges in India by taking the healthy active lifestyle route. We aim to educate consumers on the benefits of olive oil consumption in their daily routine. Our main priority is to introduce a healthy and active lifestyle in Indian households and drive the message of ‘Luv Life, Luv Olive’ among consumers. We have tied up with well-known nutritionists to help us spread the myriad benefits of olive oil to end-users.
We are using a mix of on-ground promotions, online campaigns and direct media interface to drive our strategy. We have also launched a microsite, luvolive.com, which provides information on olive oil and aims to engage with users on the various benefits and uses of this wonder oil.
GN: Until now, olive oil has been targeted primarily at the affluent segment in India and is basically a niche product, as it is far more expensive than other cooking mediums. As a healthy alternative, it should be accessible to a larger section of the population. Do you have any plans to do this?
Bhasin: Our products are priced competitively keeping in mind the Indian consumer buying behavior. While doing our research, we also found out that the decision-maker in the Indian household is open to shelling out a bit extra for a healthier eating option for the family. It is our aim to provide the Indian consumer with the best quality of olive oil at the most affordable prices. Our products are available in a wide range of packaging, ranging from 125ml to 5ltrs, providing the convenience to choose as per need.
GN: You have said that India is a favorable place for olive plantations. There is already an experiment in olive cultivation in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Would you be collaborating with these projects or are you planning a new venture?
Bhasin: It is too early to comment on this. However, as a leading player in the Indian olive oil space, we would be keen to explore every opportunity.
GN: Yours is the first company manufacturing olive oil that has set up a 100% subsidiary in the country, which in a way establishes the seriousness of your future plans. Do you foresee a time when olive oil would be part of the normal Indian diet?
Bhasin: The olive oil market is at its nascent stage in India. There is immense opportunity to explore the market with unique marketing strategies and initiatives. We are the only multinational corporation present in this market with a “local subsidiary” and have a first-mover advantage. We are here to help in the establishment and growth of the olive oil category and thereby grow with it. We want to play the role of a category captain wherever we go. We will be aggressively looking at investments in marketing campaigns aimed at creating awareness regarding olive oil and its health benefits amongst Indian consumers.
GN: Despite being one of the 4 metros, Borges has not introduced its products in Kolkata. Why has this city been left out in your marketing plan, when you have included cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and even Pune?
Bhasin: Borges started its launch in India in a test market, with operations in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Now that we have tested our sales and marketing strategies, we are prepared to expand into other big geographies/markets in India. Of course, Kolkata is in the pipeline and very soon you would see our entry into this very important market.
GN: You have a variety of olive oils: Extra Virgin, Pure, Extra Light, and so on. What is the relevance of each of these types for the Indian consumer?
Bhasin: We have a wide range of product offerings: extra virgin olive oil, pure olive oil and extra light olive oil, and multiple pack sizes within each of those variants, to serve every consumer need.