By Gita Narrayani
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Kalkata

India is an enticing market with its burgeoning middle class, increasing globalization and an aspirational lifestyle. It has thus become a lucrative destination for many products, especially in the food processing sector that offers substantial growth opportunities. Known as the ‘sunrise sector’ the food processing industry has also brought to the forefront healthy food alternatives and one of these is olive oil as a cooking medium.

Olive oil consumption is gradually increasing as people are growing more health- conscious with doctors prescribing the cooking medium to patients with
heart problems. This rising demand has prompted many producing countries
olive-oil-campaigns-in-indiaand others to promote olive oil in India, utilizing primarily the health benefits as the unique selling point. Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest cooking mediums in the world today and is known for its nutritious composition and its capacity to prevent several ailments including heart disease and cancer.

International Olive Council: The International Olive Council (IOC) was set up in 1959 in Madrid, Spain under the auspices of the United Nations and has been responsible for popularizing the use of olive oil in several countries. Since 2007, the IOC has been active in India promoting olive oil among consumers and would be spending 1 million euros (USD 1.3M) in a three-year campaign to ramp up olive oil sales.

olive-oil-campaigns-in-indiaV N Dalmia, President of the Indian Olive Association said recently “In India, the consumption of olive oil was somewhere around 1,500 tons in 2006. As a result of IOC’s rigorous campaigning, the consumption of olive oil rose to 2,300 tons in a year’s time. In 2010-11, we expect the volume to touch 3,000 tons, of which about 2,000 tons will be for edible use.”

The primary focus of the IOC campaign is to persuade the Union Government to reduce import duty on olive oil from its present 50 to 25 percent, which would bring down prices by around 20 percent from the Rs. 500 (USD 11) per liter average that it is selling at now. The IOC is also advising the government to amend certain food laws to bring the current olive oil standards in line with international norms, which would help to increase consumption. India imports
around 2,300 tons of olive oil and the IOC wishes to enhance consumption that
would increase imports to 40,000 tons in the next five years.

The IOC in its promotional campaign has organized seminars with food writers, workshops with leading chefs and promotional activities in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and a few other major cities. Celebrities have also been roped in like the famous chef and food writer Sanjeev Kapoor and Prahlad Kakkar, the film maker and foodie.

Spain enters the fray: With the Indian consumer market booming with the launch of several reputed retail chains, companies producing olive oil are preparing to take advantage with the ‘health and fitness’ trend. Taking note of all the positive signs and the projection by the Indian Olive Association (IOA) that olive oil consumption would increase 9-fold by 2012, the Spanish Embassy has launched a promotional campaign in India.

The campaign which is restricted to the capital New Delhi for now has included working with health and fitness specialists, dieticians, chefs and cardiologists to introduce olive oil to the Indian consumer. Spanish olive oil currently has a 60 percent market share in India and producers keen to capitalize on this positive trend, are said to have allocated around €30,000 (USD 39,000) for generic promotional activities, according to Jose Antonio Bretone, Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Spanish Embassy.

“Efforts are on to make it cheaper; we have written to the Government to reduce the import tariff from 40 to 7 percent. Also consumers will have to look at it as an investment in health”, says Ruth Abad, Commercial Attaché at the Spanish Embassy in New Delhi.

Turkey: Turkish producers wish to market their olive oil under their own labels, since Anatolia in central Turkey is considered to be the ancient homeland of the olive tree. Looking at India as a market with potential, the Turkish Olive and Olive Oil Promotion Group with 450 members has initiated a marketing project for Turkish olive oil in 2007.

“We want to tell the people that olive oil from Turkey is of high quality and as good as in Italy”, Mrs. Canan Inanc, one of the members, said.

The Group is aware that olive oil is yet to make a serious dent in the Indian edible oil market and is used in small quantities when compared with other cooking oils. But Mehmet Aytek, Chief Commercial Counselor of the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi is optimistic about future prospects, with the IOC from Spain financing a promotional campaign and also the concerted efforts to persuade the Indian government to reduce the customs duty on olive oil.

OLiveitup!: A 3-year promotional campaign for European olive oil, OLiveitup is being financed by the European Union in collaboration with Italy. The campaign conducted and coordinated by the Consortium of Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVC), has included training and information seminars to disseminate accurate data about the olive oils of European origin. A wide range of activities have been planned and some implemented, which includes workshops, tour programs, participation in food/trade fairs and exhibitions, tasting and cookery sessions and advertising in print, television and other major media. The objective is to highlight the health benefits of olive oil and the need to include it in a balanced diet.

The Consortium of Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an Italian organization comprising people from the olive oil industry, who aim to propagate the unique properties of extra virgin olive oil. The promotional activity has involved reputed chefs, food critics, nutritionists and restaurateurs, besides journalists, importers, culinary schools and consumers who were interested in knowing about olive oil and how to incorporate it in Indian cuisine.

The Latest on the Indian Olive Oil Trail: A national contest for the best budding chef was recently held at the Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, New Delhi. Organized by the Consortium of Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVC), the competition was the culmination of 3-day training programs in the use of European olive oils held at the leading hotel management institutes in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai from 11th to the 20th of November, 2010. Each institute selected 5 winners to take part in the national contest, where each chef had to cook an original Indian dish with extra virgin olive oil.

The panel of judges included Mauro Meloni Director of The Consortium of Guarantee of Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chef Angelo Franchini, the former Executive Chef at Peninsula Hotel, Beverly Hills, Chef Shaju Zacharia, Senior General Manager, Food & Beverage at DLF Recreational Foundation Ltd and V. N. Dalmia President of the Indian Olive Oil Association. The final winner was Manish Kamat from Rizvi College of Hotel Management, Mumbai who won the first prize for the innovative Bharela Dum Murg (Stuffed Chicken) cooked with extra virgin olive oil.

The entire program was implemented with the objective of familiarizing the future chefs of the hospitality and catering industries with accurate information about European extra virgin olive oil. The training and the national contest would be held again in 2011 and 2012 by the EVC in other hotel management and catering institutes as part of the Oliveitup promotional initiative.

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