Indians are facing a health crisis – like in other countries – from modern stresses and lack of exercise. Are you concerned about this trend? What should be done about this?
India ranks as World No.1 in cardiac patients with 10 percent of the population affected. The US and Europe are jointly No.2 with 7 percent each. WHO expects heart disease to be the single greatest killer in India by 2015. More than 100 million people in India suffer from heart disease. The highest growth of heart disease is among young corporate executives. Additionally, 31 percent of urban Indians are either overweight or obese. 140 million people in India have high blood pressure. Over 40 percent of urban Indians have high lipid levels. 140 million people in India have high blood pressure – 14 percent of world patients & 26 percent of the Indian population. Over 40 percent of urban Indians have high lipid levels. India is the diabetic capital of world with an estimated 51 million people affected. The situation is already a national emergency. We need a healthy oil. Olive oil (including olive pomace oil) is the world’s healthiest edible oil.
Heart disease, to a large extent, is a lifestyle disease as are diabetes and hypertension. As the national health situation is already an emergency, the need of the hour is to promote a preventive lifestyle to the general public. What is required is education at a mass level starting at primary school about lifestyle diseases, their causes and methods of prevention. A preventive lifestyle includes diet and exercise. A significant component of any health diet is a high MUFA oil. The Ministry of Health is talking about a campaign to combat lifestyle diseases. The State Governments also need to be involved. Meals provided by the Government to children must be prepared in healthy oils. Extensive ad and educational campaigns must be launched. Olive oil must be included in such campaigns as a healthy, high MUFA oil.
You are inviting investors to join in your expansion initiatives. How is that going so far?
Very well. We have several offers for participation in our growth equity and are evaluating the proposals. We shall make announcements shortly.
Is Borges your biggest competitor? How are you doing against them?
No, Borges is not. There are others who have been established in India longer than Borges. However, we welcome worthy competitors like Borges. As they are corporatized, they belong to the organized sector. Their marketing initiatives, like ours, will serve to grow the market. It is the small importers who import to make a quick buck that end up spoiling the market. Every importer and his cousin gets the “smart” idea of importing olive oil. As it is difficult to list a new brand in modern trade due to heavy listing fees or to place it in traditional retail due to non-acceptance of an unknown brand, they are unable to sell their product and end up liquidating stock at crazy discounts, in effect selling even below cost. This notion that a quick buck can be made by importing a container of olive oil has been the sure road to ruin for many and creates havoc in the market. However, a slow process of consolidation is taking place, a few brands are gaining prominence and I expect that many brands will fall by the way-side in the next 2 years. With gradual commoditization, margins will also reduce and consolidation will occur.
We work together with Borges and others in the Indian Olive Association. At the moment, Leonardo is by far the largest importer of olive oil in the edible segment (as opposed to the massage segment).
Sir, what would you say to our readers – people around the world who are olive oil consumers, healthy cooking enthusiasts and olive industry professionals?
I’d like to emphasize to my colleagues in the industry and to your readers that the real challenge in India is to grow the market. We should not waste time and energy in criticizing different grades of olive oil or each other. The consumption was a mere 4,000 tonnes last year and is expected to be 6,000 tonnes this year barring unforeseen economic events. These numbers are just too small and not worthy of a nation such as India. Once the total consumption grows to a respectable level and once a respectable proportion of our 1.2 billion population is aware of olive oil, perhaps we can begin to promote different grades, deride each others’ products and upgrade consumers to higher grades of olive oil. It is too early right now in the development of our market to waste time in fighting each other.
Furthermore, the total production of olive oil in the world is 3+ million tonnes. The total consumption of edible oil in India alone is above 15 million tonnes. You can imagine what is the total consumption of edible oil in the world including China. The challenge really is to spread awareness of the benefits of olive oil so that worldwide consumption of this healthy edible oil and healthy cooking habits grow and that olive oil becomes a greater proportion of oil in general use.
Olive oil purists, in their zeal to promote the benefits and taste of Extra Virgin, miss the point. Already, producers in Spain are suffering because they are unable to sell their production. This year, there will be increases of production in Turkey, Tunisia, Argentina and others. While production in Greece and Italy is expected to decline, total production will grow. Internecine squabbling will not serve to grow the world market.
Olive Oil Times is doing a yeoman job of spreading the word. I encourage you and your readers to take forward and spread an enlightened view as well as the big picture.