VN Dalmia serves as chairman of New Delhi-based Dalmia Continental Private Limited (DCPL). DCPL, Dalmia’s flagship company, owns Leonardo Olive Oil and Hudson Canola Oil — both market leaders in their categories. DCPL forms part of the Dalmia Group of companies which was founded by Dalmia’s father, the industrialist Ramkrishna Dalmia, in the early 1930s as the Dalmia-Jain Group which would become India’s third largest business empire.
Dalmia is a Knight Commander of Italy having been awarded the “Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity” in recognition of his contribution to the development of friendly relations with Italy. He is also president of the Indian Olive Association and executive vice president of the Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation, an autonomous organization of the Indian government dedicated to the uplift of the backward classes. He has previously been president of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (NIC).
In addition to an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Dalmia received a degree in economics from the University of Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce.
Olive Oil Times: What are the promotional activities of the International Olive Council (IOC) in India?
VN Dalmia: The IOC conducted two campaigns in India, the first in 2007 and the 2nd in 2009. The budget for the first campaign was €400,000 and for the second, €800,000. The promotional activities consisted of: participation in trade fairs and exhibitions, conducting workshops and lectures for women, creation of booklets and information kits, a website, collaboration with a celebrity chef/ambassador (Sanjeev Kapoor and Prahlad Kakkar), market research, public relations and publicity including commercials on television and advertisements in the print media. They have no plans for any further campaigns in India.
The Consortium of Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil has however, launched a 3‑year campaign in India this year, financed by the European Union and Italy with a budget of €2 million.
OOT: Do you really feel that olive oil will penetrate all strata of the Indian market as a cooking medium?
VND: It must, but it will happen gradually. The fact is that India ranks highest in cardiac patients, with 10% of the population affected and the World Health Organization expects heart disease to be the single greatest killer in by 2015.
Given the backdrop of the national health situation, I expect olive oil to penetrate larger sections of the market, once people realize it is not as expensive to use as it seems. Presently, we have made great efforts to publicize the fact that olive oil is used in smaller quantities than other oils (as low as 1/3rd the quantity) and that there are different grades of olive oil for different uses. Olive pomace oil is the most economical and suitable for Indian cooking and is a good substitute for those used by the Indian consumer, i.e. sunflower, safflower, peanut, and others.
In India oil is used as a cooking medium, not as a flavoring agent. Earlier, everyone advised use of the extra virgin variety, as it is the best. It has the best flavor, but is not always the best for Indian cuisine.
In the light of the disease scenario in our country, if the Indian household has to pay Rs.20 more per day for better health, is it too high a price to pay? Given the health benefits, I have no doubt that olive oil will penetrate the upper and middle strata of the Indian market as a cooking medium.
OOT: Olive pomace oil is supposedly extracted with a chemical Hexane and is considered the lowest grade in olive oils. It is therefore a variety of olive oil that is normally not utilized for cooking in Europe or the USA. What are your views on this?
VND: The same solvent Hexane is used to extract other cooking oils, like it is for Olive Pomace Oil. Use of Hexane, by itself is not a matter of concern. What should be a matter of concern is the level of Benzopyrene prevalent in any solvent- extracted oil. Benzopyrene results from the process of solvent extraction and an excess is said to be harmful. India has no standard for the permissible limit of Benzopyrene in solvent-extracted edible oils. The European Union (EU) has a strict limit of 2 parts per billion and as all the Olive pomace oil comes from the EU, it is amply safe.
The US started out with Olive pomace oil 30 years ago and gradually moved up to extra virgin, as the general level of acceptance increased. Olive pomace oil is even today used in many countries for high-heat cooking or deep frying. It has a very high smoking point, which is not reached easily. In terms of beneficial fat content, i.e. monounsaturated fat, it has exactly the same as other grades of olive oil and therefore provides the same health benefits.
OOT: What kind of activity is the Indian Olive Association planning in the near future to popularize olive oil in India?
VND: We are in the midst of deliberations about what would be the best approach to popularize olive oil in India. All options are open at the moment. We are considering press, electronic media, targeted promotions to the medical community and other options. We expect Indians to move towards olive oil primarily because of its health benefits and our decisions shall be guided by this factor. We expect to decide our activities in the next few months.