Deoleo's Figaro brand of olive oil. Photo courtesy of Deoleo India.

Grandmothers from across India have become the unlikely stars of a television commercial promoting Spanish olive oil, in a quest to persuade Indian food lovers that olive oil could replace traditionally used fats without compromising the taste of local delicacies.

In the heartwarming clip, four Indian grannies were invited to a food tasting session. They were asked to give feedback on their favorite dishes cooked by unknown chefs. While the grandmothers were quick to comment on the lack of salt and use of spices; not one of the ladies noticed that olive oil had replaced the fats traditionally used in Indian cuisines.

Food is an emotion and wisdom that brings people closer. To every Indian – grandmom’s special meal is the epitome of nostalgia and unconditional love.- Satarupa Majumdar, Deoleo India

The marketing initiative aimed to dispel the widespread misconception in India that olive oil only pairs well with Mediterranean dishes, such as pasta and salads, and is not compatible with traditional Indian dishes.

Satarupa Majumdar, head of marketing at Deoleo India told Olive Oil Times how they came up with the idea of getting the women on board to promote their Figaro brand of olive oil.

See more: Cooking with Olive Oil

“Food is an emotion and wisdom that brings people closer,” Majumdar said. “To every Indian – grandmom’s special meal is the epitome of nostalgia and unconditional love. That’s been the thought.”

Majumdar said that the ladies were excited when they realized they were about to become olive oil superstars and added, “they share the same sentiment of love for cooking for their dear ones.”

“Indian consumers are well versed on the health benefits of olive oil,” she continued, although the most commonly used oils in Indian households continue to be refined oils like peanut and sunflower.

“Olive oil is used for light cooking in households,” Majumdar said. “However, some people also use it as a massage oil for skin.”

Since 2016, Deoleo has faced local competition following the launch of India’s own brand, Raj Olive Oil, which is pressed from olives cultivated in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Deoleo does not see the Indian olive oil as a threat to their Figaro brand, Majumdar said, and the data bears this point of view out. According to the Indian Ministry of Commerce, 76 percent of Indian olive oil imports came from Spain in 2018.

“The genesis of olive oil in India has been through imports and Figaro is the oldest brand with 100 years of legacy,” she said.

In 2018, import duties on olive oil soared yet again in India from 12.5 percent to 30 percent; a move which the Indian Olive Association described as “exorbitant and extraordinary.”

Deoleo India, which provides around 19 percent of the Indian olive oil market, announced plans to streamline its central distribution by bringing all the company’s manufacturing, distribution and marketing operations to India.

Majumdar spoke of the evolution of edible oils in India saying, “We have been early adopters. We have progressed from clarified butter to vegetable shortening (Dalda) to sunflower oil and then premium refined oil and so and so forth.”

She attributed rapid changes following the introduction of butter in the late 1990s to, “premium functional oils making a dent in the market and lifestyle shows propagating olive oil.”

“Mostly due to increasing awareness, brands came into the picture, and spending capacity increased. Now you find two to three types of cooking fats in an Indian household.”


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