Chef Seamus Mullen, President of the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional Pedro Barato, Consul General Rafael Conde De Saro and Manager of the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional Teresa Pérez at Olive Oils from Spain and the European Union ͞Olive Oil World Tour͟ kick-off event at Cervantes Institute of New York on July 12, 2018. [Photo by Rina Oh]

The Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional trade association, with the financial support of the European Union this month launched a three-year, multichannel campaign to promote olive oil as an integral part of the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet).

Over the next three years, we will spread the word about the culinary, nutritional and healthful values of a food product that had its origins in the Mediterranean and which has been conquering the world for quite some time.- Pedro Barato, Interprofesional Del Aceite De Oliva Español

Under the slogan “Let’s Make A Tastier World,” the campaign will focus largely on the gastronomic and health benefits of “liquid gold.” It will be carried out in major cities across the continental United States — namely Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — in addition to extending to Asia and other countries in Europe.

“This is one of the most significant promotional initiatives to have been undertaken in the olive oil sector in the entire world,” said Pedro Barato, president of the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional, at a promotional event at the Cervantes Institute in New York City. “Over the next three years, we will spread the word about the culinary, nutritional and healthful values of a food product that had its origins in the Mediterranean and which has been conquering the world for quite some time.”

The campaign will extend across land, sea and air by way of the “Olive Oil Lounge.” With express tastings, educational information, kid-friendly activities and WiFi hotspots, travelers passing through airports, train stations and seaports will have unique access to one of Spain’s proudest exports.

The content will focus on the major varietals of Spanish olive oil (Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina and Cornicabra), as well as the quality standards dictated by the EU concerning its safety, sanitary measures, labeling and nutritional guidelines.

“When the time came for us to consider the philosophy of this campaign, we made an in-depth analysis of who this should reach and how to get to that person,” explained Barato, “and we came to the conclusion that people who travel have a special awareness for trying new experiences — also in their cuisine. This is why we have focused our strategy on centers in this country with high concentrations of travelers.”

The United States became Spain’s second largest customer in 2017, representing over 11% of the country’s exports. And on a global scale, the U.S. ranks third in consumption at slightly over 300,000 tons per year. However, as Barato explained, consumption is very concentrated on the east and west coasts with a large, untapped territory between still to be won over.

“Per capita consumption in this country doesn’t even reach 1 kilo per person per year, compared to the 13 that are consumed in Spain,” he said.“This is a huge challenge for us.”

Currently, Spain produces half of the olive oil in the world, with more than six million acres of olive groves and 340 million olive trees. The country also boasts more than 200 types of olives, each with a distinctive aroma and flavor profile suited to different food products. The hope is that, as the campaign increases the use frequency of olive oil, Spain will become synonymous with the product.

But in order to make a sizeable impact in North America, members of the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional knew there had to be a dual focus on flavor and nutrition, citing North Americans’ desire to eat more healthfully without sacrificing gastronomic pleasures. In order to do this, they invited chef, cookbook author and wellness expert Seamus Mullen to join the campaign.

Mullen, who spent formative years living and cooking in Spain, turned to the MedDiet when faced with what doctors repeatedly told him was an “incurable” autoimmune disease. With a renewed emphasis on healthy fats, vegetables and whole grains, Mullen was able to slowly reverse all biological markers of the disease and lauded olive oil as “the glue that runs through all the food I cook.”

“There is a reason the subtitle of [my book] ‘Real Food Heals’ is ‘eat to feel younger and stronger every day,’ as changing the way I cooked save my life,” said Mullen. “We hope you will help spread the word of how you can enjoy a happier and healthier life by incorporating olive oil into your meal plans.”

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