More than 140,000 people – a third of them from beyond Spain – visited the Alimentaria food and drink trade fair in Barcelona and organizers say more than 5,000 of them tried olive oils in the olive oil tasting bar.

Held March 31 to April 3 and billed as fourteen shows in one biennial fair, Alimentaria’s organizers say it attracted more than 600 buyers from countries in Asia, Europe, the United States and Latin America.

Slick Spanish Merchandising Stood Out

Juan A. Peñamil Alba, who attends olive oil events and food fairs around the world in his role as CEO and editor of Spanish publisher Mercacei, said Alimentaria stood out for the fact its visitors were largely food sector-linked professionals and the presence of more than 140 olive oil brands, “most of whom I’ve talked to and are very satisfied with the contacts they’ve made here.” Peñamil said he was also struck by the high quality of olive oil presentation and packaging, which had made great strides in Spain in the last few years and “is now at an optimum level.”

Diversification also good for trade

Paloma Oliva García of La Chinata

Paloma Oliva García of La Chinata, from Spain’s Extremadura region, said the olive oil company was very pleased with the number and range of contacts made, which included representatives of exporters, restaurants and specialty shops. Oliva said many of the visitors to the company’s stand in the Olivaria salon were seeking innovative and eye-catching products. Those from the restaurant sector were very interested in non refillable bottles and in La Chinata’s cosmetic and gourmet food lines, its olive oil soap, seasonings such as flor de sal, and purées and paellas made with extra virgin olive oil, also attracted attention, she said.

Dramatic design paying off

“It’s my first time here and I’ve found it very positive because in four days we’ve met a wide range of not only potential clients but also suppliers, such as of bottles and packaging,” said Rosa Martínez, from Hacienda el Palo extra virgin olive oils. Martínez said exporters and buyers for specialty shops showed an interest in learning about the olive varieties in the two products the company was presenting, and the differences between them. Its high end Picual product Bravoleum – among this year’s special selection by the provincial council of Jaén – generated intense interest because of its violet bottle. The striking new design, on sale since December and partly inspired by the Jaén province flag, cost 20-30 percent more than a conventional bottle but had been well worth it, Martínez said.

Rosa Martínez, representing Hacienda el Palo extra virgin olive oils

Gift segment shows strong interest

Olive oils were also presented in other halls of the fair, such as in the area grouping products from the various Spanish regions. Among them was Valencia’s Señorios de Relleu coupage extra virgin olive oil – featuring a brightly-designed aluminium bottle and also available in a new gift pack with the ancient fermented fish sauce garum – which drew keen interest both from buyers looking for attractive value-added gift products and those from gourmet stores, the restaurant sector and retail chains, according to marketing manager Eduardo Palacio Oñate.

Image also a drawcard at tasting bar

Several of those among the steady flow of people at the Olive Oil Bar admitted the image conveyed by bottles played a big role in helping them choose which of the 105 extra virgin olive oils from around Spain to try. Antonia, who had come over from the Bodegas Torres stand in the nearby wine section, said she had tasted only three olive oils, “because I’ve just had lunch”, and had chosen them based on the bottle image and if they had “a strong olive aroma.”

Marta from Salamanca, said she had tasted about ten of the oils, mainly of her favorite variety, Arbequina, and taken photos of the ones she liked most, though she said they might be hard to find in the supermarkets where she usually buys olive oil. She likes oils that “taste very fresh and deliver a throat burn, but only a little one.”

Jordi from Girona, who had just tried a “marvellous, very intense” olive oil of the Changlot Real variety, welcomed the opportunity to try oils of a big range of varieties and regions. He likes to read the short description of each oil first and then proceed to smelling them if his interest is piqued – his catalogue of the oils was duly annotated – and equally values the organoleptic and health properties of extra virgin olive oil.

New and innovative products

Alimentaria’s Innoval space showcased more than 300 new and innovative products, among them a range of premium Spanish olive oils, such as the “P” by Pepa oil ​​from the Picudo and Hojiblanca varieties, and various aromatic olive oils, including a set of organic oils with thyme, mint, rosemary, tarragon or basil from Catalonia’s Olicatessen. A fellow Catalan, the retail chain Casa Ametller, launched a fruit-flavored yogurt range in which olive oil replaces the animal fat. Meanwhile, Acesur’s La Española brand presented a new extra virgin olive oil product fortified with omega 3 fatty acids aimed at health conscious consumers.

Barcelona-based company Nice Fruit won 5 of the 16 Innoval prizes for innovation for its patented system said to allow fruit to be deep frozen when perfectly ripe, kept for up to three years without losing its organoleptic and nutritional properties, and to maintain its texture on thawing. Asked whether its suitability for olives had been evaluated, Nice Fruit production director José Roger said they weren’t among the current range of 54 fruits but the revolutionary technology could well be applied to them in the future.

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