A new niche in table olives enriched with zinc – which improves firmness and reduces bitterness has been developed in Spain.

Olives are usually preserved with sodium chloride (table salt) but scientists at the Institute of Fat, in Seville, have found a way to increase their nutritional value by adding some zinc salt. They say the resulting products not only offer health benefits, they are more stable.

After trials with Aloreña de Málaga olives they concluded that a level of 0.75g/L of Zinc chloride in the packing brine offered the best balance of factors such as bitterness, acidity, saltiness, firmness and crunchiness.

The consumption of ten such olives would supply nearly 80 percent of the recommended daily intake of zinc, they said in an article last month in the LWT – Food Science and Technology journal.

Olive Oil Times spoke to research professor, Dr. Antonio Garrido Fernández from the institute’s Department of Food Biotechnology.

What inspired the project?

It’s part of our research aimed at reducing the sodium content of table olives while enriching them with nutritionally desirable compounds.

We focused on minerals because they are easy to add to end products, and we found zinc interesting because of its role in numerous biological processes.

Antonio Garrido Fernández

Who might these zinc-enriched olives attract?

They would appeal to those wanting to ensure they get the recommended daily intake of zinc, which is not exactly abundant in most foods and yet is involved in more than 300 types of biological activities in the human body.

Also, an informal survey found they were highly rated because the natural bitterness of olives is not as strong in them.

Furthermore, because zinc is recommended in cases of diarrhea, it could be a way to provide that element preventively, although no data is yet available on using these products for that reason.

And from a business point of view, they offer a new format in an important niche – consumers conscious of the diet/health link – which is booming.

When will they go on sale?

Various companies are interested and we are developing a research contract with one that seeks to offer a zinc-enriched product that also has improved product stability, thanks to the inhibitory effect that zinc salts have been seen to have on almost all the common yeasts in table olives.

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