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Opinion Leaders And Key Arguments in The Increase in Demand of EVOO

Opinion Leaders And Key Arguments in The Increase in Demand of EVOO

2019/18/03 - The outstanding increase in global demand for olive oil is the most remarkable fact of the olive oil’s market evolution in the last 25 years, a consumption behavior indicating that not only is the olive oil sector not in crisis, but that it enjoys excellent health. According to the International Olive Oil Council, in the last quarter of a century, worldwide demand has grown by 50%, increasing from two to three million metric tons.

This increase has been most important in the so-called emerging markets, which are no longer as such: United States, Brazil, Canada, Japan, etc., with the paradox that consumption has fallen in producer-countries. Spain, for example, has gone from 574,000 metric tons in the 2011/12 harvest to 494,500 metric tones in the 2015/16 campaign. This data invites reflection on two thoughts. The first would be that the domestic market still provides opportunities to be better exploited. Secondly, that the Spanish market is very sensitive to pricing: prices are used as a competition tool, resulting in positioning olive oils as a commodity, as something of little value. A serious mistake of disastrous consequences for producers and which, unfortunately, is being mimicked in other countries that had up until now given olive oil -especially, extra virgins-, their rightful value and paid their worth.

What are the factors that have led to this increase in demand for olive oil in the world? The go-to answer, with reason, is that one of the factors -perhaps the most important- is a change in consumer shopping habits where they are purchasing healthier and safer food. A trend that is an enormous opportunity for olive oils and their proven and well-known positive health benefits. But there are other no-less important factors: a search for natural, healthy and quality products; the search for the “real” thing; buying food as a way to achieve a higher status, with “good taste” and uniqueness; the search for environmentally-friendly products: carbon footprint, carbon sink, water footprint, etc.; foods that are linked to a “good and new gastronomy”, etc.

What to do in the future? Certainly, having good opinion leaders position EVOO as a singular, unique product that contributes to healthy living; but also as a means to achieving culinary pleasure, keeping a healthy body, and a product which contributes to environmental sustainability, safekeeping landscape heritage, anchoring populations in rural areas and stimulating rural areas currently experiencing worrying depopulation. EVOO is much more than income and employment: it is a cultural asset. I always recommend olive oil-lovers to watch the film Sideways, and in particular, the part in which the two lead characters talk about wine. He asks her: “what do you think when you are sipping a good glass of wine?” To which she responds: “I think about the life of the wine. It is a living thing. I like to think what happened the year the grapes grew. How much the sun shined. If it rained. I like to think about the people who cared for and collected the grapes…because a bottle of wine is always alive, in truth.” Well, when we can get the producers, as well as consumers, to talk about EVOO in the same way, we will have taken a gigantic step.

Who are these opinion leaders? Without a doubt, firstly, good professionals in the fields of health and nutrition, since the emphasis must continue to be placed on the health benefits of EVOO. Of course, high-end restaurants in general, and great chefs in particular, are excellent opinion formers. And in this area we must do much more than we do now, given that they don’t decide to buy olive oils based on their health “assets”, as seen in the University of Jaén (UJA) research carried out in the Horeca channel, where they asked 400 Spanish chefs. The results offer no doubts: their olive oil purchasing decisions are not guided by health, but by taste, price and confidence in their suppliers. Thus, the Horeca channel of key importance now, but more so in the years to come, should be a target market, a commercial aim of the upmost importance.

Finally, there is a group of people this industry has nearly forgotten. I am referring to young people, whom we must reach through sports and the big-named athletes. These, together with social media influencers, must be the primary objectives of the sector. Young people should be given the message that there is an inconsistency in practicing sports to feel better, but then eating just about anything. The Mediterranean Diet and EVOO, as a fundamental ingredient, have to position themselves as the best way, along with sports, of maintaining a healthy body. And we should adopt marketing strategies quickly and convey these messages before this age group grows accustomed to other flavors and palates. We must not forget that doctors are not the correct opinion formers for them, as they, fortunately, seldom visit them. Nor high-end restaurant chefs, because they cannot afford to pay 50 euros per head at a restaurant. Thus, we should focus on good athletes and important sporting events to cultivate their loyalty towards EVOO.

By Manuel Parras Rosa, Professor of Marketing and Market Research at the University of Jaén (UJA), for the EVOOLEUM Guide 2019.

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