` Interview with VN Dalmia, Indian Olive Association - Olive Oil Times

Interview with VN Dalmia, Indian Olive Association

Jul. 16, 2010
Gita Narrayani

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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.

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