Although Spain is the leading global producer and olive oil is one of the most emblematic symbol of its culture and culinary identity, the level of knowledge of olive oils among spanish consumers is quite low.
This follows from a study written by Francisco Jose Torres-Ruiz, Manuela Vega, Zamora and Maria Gutierrez-Salcedo from University of Jaén on the degree of knowledge of olive oil in Spain, obtained through two empirical investigations.
According to the study, less than 30 percent of regular olive oil consumers know that the “olive oil” grade is a mixture of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. The basic problem is that the degree of knowledge affects the demand for different types of olive oils and their market prices, the authors said.
Besides that, considering that consumers have different criteria to compare, evaluate and choose between options, the confusion regarding the different types of oils, the quality criteria and distinguishing features thereof, may be translated in other keys that clearer and more objective, such as price, that is more influential in the choice of each product.
In this context, the big “disadvantaged” are the highest quality oils, in particular the so-called “super premium” extra virgins, as the market does not understand what what makes them different and why they cost so much more than others.
The confusion not only affects higher quality olive oil demand and overall margins in the sector, but also weighs on the competition between olive oil with other vegetable oils, with implications for global demand for olive oil and its higher price levels.
In addition, researchers indicated that not mentioning the clear differences between the extra virgin olive oils and olive oils means devaluing every juice to a plain edible oil. In this sense, it seems necessary to provide the consumers with an intensive process of differentiation and evaluation of olive oils
To do this, the study proposes to change the politics of names, which so far has been confusing. It recommends an official communication by the governments and bodies representing the industry, directed to consumers and focused on highlighting the different types of olive oils while offering clues to assess, differentiate and foster informed choices between the various categories.
Simplicity and clarity must be two important goals in this communication, the researchers said.