` Consumers Reject EVOO Bitterness, Study Finds - Olive Oil Times

Consumers Reject EVOO Bitterness, Study Finds

Mar. 30, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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Most con­sumers do not like bit­ter­ness in their extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO), and they per­ceive the inten­sity of that taste much more than experts do, accord­ing to a new study.

The pref­er­ence for a non-bit­ter taste pro­file has a large impact on how buy­ers choose an EVOO. 

The study, con­ducted by a team of researchers from the University of Naples and pub­lished in the International Journal on Food System Dynamics, assessed the way in which these pref­er­ences affect EVOO sales. In a super­mar­ket, con­sumers favor oils lean­ing toward a neu­tral or sweet note.

Researchers com­pared the score that experts and con­sumers assigned to the bit­ter­ness of eight of the most pop­u­lar EVOOs. While pre­vi­ous stud­ies hinted at a gen­eral pref­er­ence towards neu­tral-tast­ing olive oils, the new research also ana­lyzed the way in which con­sumers actu­ally per­ceive and eval­u­ate bitterness.

The study found that bit­ter­ness in EVOO leads to a neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of the prod­uct itself among con­sumers. While bit­ter­ness is char­ac­ter­is­tic of true and fresh extra vir­gin olive oil, not a sin­gle con­sumer in the study showed a pref­er­ence for bit­ter-tast­ing samples. 

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Consumers sys­tem­at­i­cally tend to over­es­ti­mate the per­cep­tion of bit­ter­ness com­pared to experts,” the researchers wrote. 

The study under­lined that con­sumers’ choices depend on sev­eral well-known fac­tors, such as the EVOO brand or the price per bottle. 

Customers can make quick deci­sions when they find a famil­iar, trusted brand on the shelf, but when they don’t find their pre­ferred brand, they look for prod­uct attrib­utes that do not always indi­cate qual­ity, such as the loca­tion of the producer.

The most pre­ferred oil attrib­utes were taste, Italian ori­gin and the organic pro­duc­tion method,” the study noted 

The pref­er­ence for non-bit­ter EVOO cre­ates a bur­den on the per­ceived value in the amount of $1.27 per liter, the study found. This bit­ter­ness neg­a­tive value” is one of the cri­te­ria con­sumers use to make their final selection. 

While con­sumers tend to pre­fer neu­tral-tast­ing olive oils, many attribute a spe­cial qual­ity to sweet-tast­ing oils.

The study was con­ducted on a sam­ple of 196 peo­ple. On aver­age, the par­tic­i­pants were under 40 years of age, mem­bers of four-per­son fam­i­lies, and had com­pleted higher edu­ca­tion. Their house­holds con­sumed 3.4 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil per month and they answered researchers’ ques­tions after buy­ing at least one bot­tle of EVOO. 

The research team noted that fur­ther stud­ies should be con­ducted on larger and more rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples of the population.

An indus­try mem­ber sug­gested that the study showed that con­sumers need to be edu­cated about olive oil.

Bitterness is a known sign of the pres­ence of phe­no­lic com­pounds in extra vir­gin olive oil,” an Italian farmer and olive grower, Angelo DalCima, told Olive Oil Times. You do not want it to play a dom­i­nat­ing role in your EVOO, but when you get the first taste of your newly pro­duced oil, you are happy to feel that bit­ter note that reminds you of the fresh olive. It is reassuring,” 

I think we should do more to let con­sumers know more facts about our EVOOs.”



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