` Survey Reveals Surprising Views Toward Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Survey Reveals Surprising Views Toward Olive Oil

May. 30, 2013
Nancy Flagg

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By Nancy Flagg
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Sacramento

Despite con­ven­tional wis­dom that olive oil should not be used for cook­ing, con­sumers do it any­way, accord­ing to a UC Davis Olive Center report.

The report was based on a sur­vey designed to dis­cover con­sumer atti­tudes and per­cep­tions towards olive oil. Among six areas sur­veyed, Executive Director Dan Flynn was most sur­prised by con­sumer responses about cook­ing with olive oil.

Research shows that olive oil’s smoke point, the tem­per­a­ture at which it gives off smoke and degrades in qual­ity, is high enough to sup­port most cook­ing, but the media, cook­books and celebrity chefs tell peo­ple not to cook with olive oil,” said Flynn. Consumers appar­ently did it any­way and found the sky didn’t fall.”

More than 2,200 con­sumers responded to the Olive Center’s online sur­vey. After ana­lyz­ing the results, researchers con­cluded that con­sumers believe that they know more about olive oil than they actu­ally do.”

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As an exam­ple of the dis­con­nect between per­ceived and actual knowl­edge, no more than 25 per­cent of sur­vey respon­dents cor­rectly answered ques­tions test­ing their under­stand­ing of extra vir­gin,” pure,” and light” grades, even though the major­ity indi­cated that they knew the dif­fer­ences between the grades.

Nearly half of the par­tic­i­pants thought that the label pure” des­ig­nated the high­est qual­ity oil, and many con­sumers believed that olive oil labeled light” per­tained to its calo­rie count, when it actu­ally means that the oil was refined and is more neu­tral in fla­vor than higher grades.

The sur­vey showed that fla­vor was the top fac­tor affect­ing con­sumer pur­chases of olive oil, but descrip­tive words used by the indus­try to describe the pos­i­tive taste attrib­utes of olive oil, do not always have a cor­re­spond­ing impact on con­sumers. Consumers agreed that that the word fresh” describes good-tast­ing oil, but the words fruity,” pep­pery,” and grassy,” did not res­onate well as indi­ca­tors of tastiness.

The report also revealed that con­sumers choose olive oil over other fats because they per­ceive it as health­ier and tast­ing bet­ter, even though a large per­cent­age of respon­ders did not think that olive oil is good for con­sum­ing as it is. Many make their olive oil selec­tion based on best before date,” although a UC Davis Olive Center study showed that the date bears lit­tle cor­re­la­tion to quality.

Flynn believes that the report pro­vide insight that pro­duc­ers or indus­try asso­ci­a­tions could use to improve mar­ket­ing and to help con­sumers bet­ter under­stand olive oil.

Although the sur­vey focused on U.S. cus­tomers, it would be inter­est­ing to see how the results would com­pare to other coun­tries,” said Flynn.

Flynn is par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in doing more research on con­ven­tional wis­dom. In one exam­ple, a stan­dard piece of advice to pre­vent oxi­da­tion is, don’t put olive oil in a clear bot­tle.” Flynn says the advice is good, but research could deter­mine if clear bot­tles could safely be used if they were mostly cov­ered by a label. He would like to do a research project sim­u­lat­ing super­mar­ket con­di­tions with shelves, over­head lights and bot­tles placed on dif­fer­ent shelf lev­els to see what would happen.”



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