`Spain Goes Beyond Extra Virgin - Olive Oil Times

Spain Goes Beyond Extra Virgin

Jun. 9, 2011
Curtis Cord

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Claudio Peri

In his open­ing remarks Tuesday in Córdoba, Association 3E founder Claudio Peri said the fact that Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español, the world’s largest olive oil group, had taken on his tiny” olive oil qual­ity ini­tia­tive not just sig­nif­i­cant, but a revolution.”

Organizing the annual meet­ing for the first time, Interprofessional demon­strated its con­sid­er­able strength, attract­ing food indus­try pro­fes­sion­als, sci­en­tists, edu­ca­tors and press from through­out the world to Córdoba this week for a vig­or­ous pro­gram cen­tered around the sub­ject of pre­mium olive oil pro­duc­tion, eval­u­a­tion, appli­ca­tion and promotion.

The five-year trav­el­ing event has found a stun­ning stage in Córdoba, the beau­ti­ful city in Andalusia her­alded for its rich cul­tural her­itage and sur­rounded by rolling hills of sun­flow­ers and olive groves. At the same time, Spanish olive oil, already the world leader in terms of olive oil pro­duc­tion, has staked its claim to lead the charge for higher qual­ity and shape its dialogue.

Spain has its rea­sons. Suffering from a pro­longed pric­ing cri­sis, its mas­sive olive oil sec­tor is run­ning out of options. Their tanks filled with the bounty of the sec­ond-biggest year ever in terms of olive oil pro­duc­tion vol­ume, pro­duc­ers here have been sell­ing their hard-earned prod­uct for less than it cost to pro­duce. Most blame an unbal­anced and out­dated dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem that places too much influ­ence in the hands of a few pow­er­ful dis­trib­u­tors, and gro­cers who use olive oil as a loss leader to draw in cus­tomers with unsus­tain­able prices.

Snubbed by the European Commission that has repeat­edly rejected calls for reim­burse­ments for keep­ing stock in tanks until pric­ing lev­els have a chance to improve, the region’s grow­ers also face the expi­ra­tion of the mar­ket-tilt­ing sub­si­dies and a lev­el­ing of the field with up-and-com­ing pro­duc­ers in Chile, Australia and the United States.

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Taking on the Beyond Extra Virgin con­fer­ence is part of a larger and sus­tained ini­tia­tive to teach con­sumers to appre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ences between types of olive oil and pay more for higher qual­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics. As the mar­ket giant, Spain has the cul­tural, sci­en­tific and indus­trial resources to take the lead­ing role in con­vey­ing infor­ma­tion about olive oil qual­ity to con­sumers world­wide and it has the most to gain.

Speaking on the con­fer­ence open­ing day the strate­gies direc­tor of the Culinary Institute of America, Greg Drescher, explained how his California cam­pus cre­ates value by high­light­ing pre­mium olive oils with inno­v­a­tive pre­sen­ta­tions and pair­ings. Well-known Spanish chef Maria Jose San Roman demon­strated the prepa­ra­tion of her Tapas dishes, drip­ping with selected regional olive oils, that have made her Alicante restau­rant famous.

Speakers on day two of the con­fer­ence have been shar­ing research and opin­ions on con­sumer per­cep­tions of olive oil qual­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics and the def­i­n­i­tion of pre­mium olive oil.

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