Business

Fourth Olive Oil Conference Coming to Chicago Area

Producers, importers and retailers will gather to hear from speakers discussing a wide range of topics, from olive oil health and nutrition to strengthening quality controls and standards.

May. 17, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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Domestic olive oil pro­duc­ers, importers and retail­ers will gather in the north­west­ern Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois this July for the fourth annual Olive Oil Conference.

The two-day event, which is co-hosted by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) and International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes, will cover an array of topics by a diverse panel of speak­ers. However, a key focus of the event will be about nutri­tion and health.

“What I really look for­ward to is seeing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from diverse sec­tors coa­lesce around common objec­tives and inter­ests,” NAOOA exec­u­tive direc­tor Joseph Profaci said. “This year, with an entire day ded­i­cated to health and nutri­tion, we hope to attract more dieti­cians and nutri­tion­ists as well.”

The second day of the con­fer­ence will focus on health and nutri­tion. The day’s pro­gram will include a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the twenty-fifth anniver­sary of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a pro­posal to repeat a Spanish study regard­ing the health ben­e­fits of the Mediterranean diet on car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and two pre­sen­ta­tions on polyphe­nols.

“This approach is all about mar­ry­ing sci­ence and prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion,” Profaci said. “The first lec­ture is about the sci­ence of polyphe­nols, and the second pre­sen­ta­tion is geared to under­stand­ing how the polyphe­nols in extra virgin olive oil can prac­ti­cally be better inte­grated into the typ­i­cal American diet.”

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“We will follow on those pre­sen­ta­tions with the chal­lenges of com­mu­ni­cat­ing health mes­sages, such as the health ben­e­fits of polyphe­nols, to American con­sumers,” he added.

Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health will be dis­cussing the pro­posal to repeat a Spanish study which found that replac­ing five per­cent of sat­u­rated fat calo­ries with an equal number of calo­ries from monoun­sat­u­rated and polyun­sat­u­rated fats reduced the risk of heart dis­ease by 15 to 25 per­cent, respec­tively. Olive oil is rich in both monoun­sat­u­rates and polyun­sat­u­rates.

“[It] is pretty straight­for­ward: con­sume few sat­u­rated fats like butter, full-fat dairy, beef and pork fat, and coconut, palm and palm kernel oils and replace them with nat­ural veg­etable oils high in polyun­sat­u­rates,” Sacks told the New York Times ear­lier this year.

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The first day of the con­fer­ence will focus on the state of the olive oil indus­try in terms of dis­tri­b­u­tion, supply and demand; American eating habits and con­sumer atti­tudes toward olive oil; and strength­en­ing qual­ity con­trols, includ­ing a lec­ture on deter­min­ing best-by dates from Dan Flynn, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center.

Flynn said that he had not pre­vi­ously attended the con­fer­ence and looks for­ward to net­work­ing with new and famil­iar faces from the sector. With his pre­sen­ta­tion, he hopes to edu­cate con­sumers and pro­duc­ers about the ben­e­fits of fresh oil.

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“The dates may help con­sumers be more aware of the value of olive oil fresh­ness, and it may inspire pro­duc­ers to adopt prac­tices that will extend the shelf life of their oils,” he said.

Pierluigi Tosato, the CEO of Deoleo, SA will also speak on the first day about what he believes is a much-needed rev­o­lu­tion in supply, dis­tri­b­u­tion and demand for olive oil. At a recent break­fast with the Spanish press, Tosato dis­cussed these topics.

“The future of the olive oil sector comes through qual­ity and needs a pro­found trans­for­ma­tion in its entire value chain,” he told Spanish reporters. “It is [cur­rently] anchored in a vicious circle, which we must reverse, turn­ing it into a vir­tu­ous circle.”

The first day will con­clude with an olive oil tast­ing refresher led by Simon Fields.

Profaci said he believes the diver­sity of these sub­jects com­bined with the exper­tise of the pre­sen­ters will make this year’s con­fer­ence stand out. With the high level of inter­est in olive oil in the U.S., he said he expects a turn out of at least 60 to 70 atten­dees.

“We built the pro­gram around the impli­ca­tions from the con­sumer atti­tude and usage study recently con­ducted jointly by the NAOOA and American Olive Oil Producer Association, and there­fore the sub­jects are more cur­rent and per­ti­nent than ever before,” he added.

“We are expect­ing a great turnout, as there is some­thing for every­one in the cat­e­gory.”

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The con­fer­ence will take place from July 10 to 12. Registration for the event is avail­able on the NAOOA web­site. Discounted pack­ages are avail­able if pur­chased before May 21.