`Olive Oil Needs A Pitchman - Olive Oil Times

Olive Oil Needs A Pitchman

Jul. 1, 2014
Curtis Cord

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The International Olive Council orga­nized a sem­i­nar titled Understanding Olive Oil” on Monday, June 30 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.

These are tough times for olive oil pro­duc­ers. Prices are low, stocks are high and imports are slip­ping in every major mar­ket.

Here in the world’s largest mar­ket, per capita con­sump­tion hasn’t budged in years, despite all of the com­pelling rea­sons Americans should be using more olive oil and less of the other fats.

Not much has been done here to help the sit­u­a­tion, while plenty has made it worse.

Yesterday I attended a sem­i­nar at the Fancy Food Show in New York, where the International Olive Council wasted yet another oppor­tu­nity to do some­thing that mat­tered.

It was an impres­sive turnout, though it was hard to tell who was there to be enlight­ened about one of the world’s most impor­tant foods, and who was lured there first thing in the morn­ing by the raf­fle for an iPad and free dough­nuts.

Jean-Louis Barjol

IOC direc­tor Jean-Louis Barjol began by warn­ing that, hav­ing allot­ted him­self just 45 min­utes, he would need to move along quickly.

But 45 min­utes is plenty of time to make a com­pelling case for olive oil — to draw us in with images that speak of its rich cul­ture, to high­light its advan­tages in the sim­plest terms and pro­vide pow­er­ful talk­ing points to trickle down through those of us attend­ing to a broad audi­ence on the busy trade show floor and beyond.


But Barjol is no pitch­man.

Before join­ing the global gov­ern­ing body for Liquid Gold, Barjol rep­re­sented sugar man­u­fac­tur­ers, and the sem­i­nar in the Javits Center base­ment was an unin­spired report on just another com­mod­ity, some­how deliv­ered in a French-accented monot­one (an achieve­ment I sup­pose in its own right).

After a rehashed pre­sen­ta­tion with a few dozen slides full of graphs, con­sump­tion sta­tis­tics and stan­dards bench­marks, the first ques­tion from an audi­ence mem­ber was where he could find an olive oil mar­tini. My sen­ti­ments exactly.

But just like the Lincoln Center kick­off of the only IOC cam­paign here in the Internet Age (what, you don’t remem­ber see­ing the Add Some Life” cam­paign? The one with 342 mil­lion impres­sions” that some­how missed us all?) this was another blown oppor­tu­nity to deliver strong, sim­ple mes­sages about olive oil. Why to use it. How to use it.

That cam­paign had a bud­get of $1.7 mil­lion (for which we got a guy named Ryan Goodspeed and a blog).

Of course, every­one knows the IOC is broke as it under­goes a period of self-reflec­tion in its bid for a life-sus­tain­ing char­ter. But here’s what I would do if I were Barjol (should he be given another chance after his term ends in December):

Paul Bartolotta

I’d ask mem­ber coun­tries to approve a call for ten­ders for an olive oil pitch­man (or woman). Preferrably a highly charis­matic chef who has taken the time to really know olive oil (you’d be sur­prised how few chefs really do), he will tour the world all year deliv­er­ing clear, mem­o­rable per­for­mances to audi­ences every­where: Why to use olive oil. How to use olive oil. An olive oil world tour.

I met a chef some years ago in Córdoba who would make a good can­di­date. The well-known restau­ra­teur Paul Bartolotta had pulled him­self away from build­ing his culi­nary empire to join the cam­paign for olive oil qual­ity and edu­ca­tion.

Bartolotta held the audi­ence at the Beyond Extra Virgin” con­fer­ence spell­bound with his straight talk and no-non­sense deliv­ery, pep­pered with anec­dotes from his Midwestern upbring­ing. I told him at the time he’d make a good pitch­man for olive oil, and he said he’d be very inter­ested. I men­tioned the dis­cus­sion to Barjol soon after.

Who knows, things might have turned out dif­fer­ently.

One per­son. An olive oil front man, not to talk about stan­dards, fraud and export trends, but about his­tory and tra­di­tion, sim­ple health ben­e­fits and mak­ing the per­fect egg with extra vir­gin olive oil.

Know any­one who’d be good for the job?


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