` VN Dalmia Offers an Olive Oil Reality Check - Olive Oil Times

VN Dalmia Offers an Olive Oil Reality Check

Dec. 4, 2011
Curtis Cord

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While a debate swirls around how to ensure the qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil in the United States, Europe and else­where, con­sumers in India are get­ting an entirely dif­fer­ent mes­sage.

In a new cam­paign rolled out by the coun­try’s largest olive oil mar­keter, it’s the low­est edi­ble grade — one that can’t even legally be called olive oil” in most places — that Indians should turn to for a health­ier diet: Introducing the only major cam­paign in the world to pro­mote olive pomace oil.

It’s all under the direc­tion of VN Dalmia, 57, son of pio­neer indus­tri­al­ist Ramkrishna Dalmia, and the chair­man of Dalmia Continental, the com­pany behind Leonardo Olive Oil.

He is the pres­i­dent of the Indian Olive Association, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, a trustee at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and a Knight Commander of Italy for his con­tri­bu­tion to the devel­op­ment of friendly rela­tions. I am con­scious of my respon­si­bil­i­ties and weigh my words care­fully as I speak,” he told Olive Oil Times.

Dalmia has been crit­i­cized for choos­ing to con­cen­trate mar­ket­ing efforts on the low­est oil grade but he says his crit­ics have it all wrong. Criticism is mis­con­ceived and dis­plays a lack of under­stand­ing of the real­i­ties of the Indian mar­ket­place,” he said.

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We have var­i­ous com­pa­nies, asso­ci­a­tions, con­sor­tia and even the IOC try­ing to intro­duce new Mediterranean’ and other diets, new tastes, etc. and con­cur­rently telling us that (extra vir­gin) tastes bet­ter.’ This is akin to tak­ing coconut oil to Italy or Spain and telling them that their food would taste bet­ter if cooked in coconut oil or, for that mat­ter, mus­tard oil to France and propos­ing the same to them! Good mar­ket­ing con­sists of deter­min­ing and giv­ing the cus­tomer what she wants and needs rather than try­ing to shove your prod­uct down her throat and tell her what is bet­ter for her.”

After press­ing olives into oil, what’s left is the residue called pomace: the solid remains of the olive includ­ing skins, pulp, seeds, and stems. There is such a lit­tle amount of oil left in the pomace that it can­not be extracted by press­ing, but only through indus­trial refin­ing includ­ing the use of chem­i­cal sol­vents (like hexane), extremely high heat and deodor­iza­tion.

Olive pomace oil is used by instu­tu­tional food ser­vices, restau­rants and pizze­rias. It is often picked up by unwit­ting shop­pers swayed by the roman­tic pack­ag­ing with its mis­lead­ing word­ing and low price — unaware that they’re not actu­ally buy­ing olive oil at all.

It’s the olive pomace grade that Dalmia empha­sizes in a new mass-mar­ket cam­paign in India under the slo­gan Go Indiano.”

We decided to focus on Indian cui­sine and daily use because that is where the vol­ume would come from. We intro­duced Leonardo Olive Pomace Oil because of the way Indian food is pre­pared,” Dalmia said. Everyday Indian food involves high-heat cook­ing. Extra vir­gin olive oil pre­sented prob­lems with fry­ing: it was unsta­ble at high tem­per­a­tures and it imparted an olive fla­vor to the food and thus changed the taste. As a result, peo­ple who tried it con­cluded that olive oil was unsuit­able for Indian cook­ing and aban­doned it. Olive pomace oil pre­sented none of these prob­lems.”

Abandoned is right. In a 2008 inter­view, Dalmia pre­dicted con­sump­tion of olive oil in India would reach 25,000 tons in 2010, and 42,000 tons in 2012 — fore­casts that turned out to be way off. Last year the total was 4,000 tons, this year it might be 6,000 — incred­i­bly small num­bers for 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple. It would equal about 1/4 of a table­spoon per year for the aver­age Indian, or about one-ten-thou­sandth of what the typ­i­cal Greek con­sumes — or less than one-hun­dredth of the aver­age American.

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