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New Trends, New Times for EVOO

New Trends, New Times for EVOO

2019/11/04 - Virgin olive oil’s constitution is one of the richest in desirable compounds both from a nutritional point of view as from a bioactive standpoint, making it a unique product. The physical, chemical and sensorial characteristics guarantee its natural origin in any of the compositions where it is included. These properties are precisely what have allowed extra virgin olive oil to take a qualitative leap into other applications besides the traditional ones.
Its versatility makes it an excellent staple to accompany any ingredient in delicious culinary creations of the Mediterranean Diet, this being its natural liquid state. However, the latest food trends have succumbed to innovation and haven’t been able to resist trying different formats for this product that allow to enjoy the specific attributes without ever altering its taste.

The fatty acid composition -varying depending on varietals, farming conditions, harvesting period and processing conditions- directly influences the oil’s density and viscosity that, depending on the temperature used while working with it, can be employed in the creation of dishes partially or completely replacing other animal and/or vegetable fats, and delivering improvements in texture and other physical and sensorial attributes. Moreover, substituting other cooking fats with EVOO broadens the dish’s healthy aspects with a substantial increase in monounsaturated fats responsible for numerous health benefits.

From another perspective, those very features have peaked the interest of other industries in this fruit juice who are going beyond its common use in gastronomy to others such as cosmetics. Thus, many products have been created that combine health and nutrition for hair and skin, while enhancing personal well-being. In these products, olive oil plays a protective role against cell damage due to its natural antioxidant content such as phenolic and tocopherol compounds among others; as well as its regenerative properties in skin damage caused by the sun, attributed to the presence of squalene in the unsaponifiable fraction.

The new proposals in today’s food industry include innovations where oil is introduced in scenarios where its presence was not common yet, and is introduced in its natural state; while in others, oil is being treated previously to modify its aspect, making it more attractive and evocative for consumption. Finally, oil can be modified to alter its physical characteristics in a way that its presence improves the nutritional and sensory properties of the dish.

The rise of using olive oil in dishes that until recently were unthinkable has generated pleasant surprises. Its combination in sweet confections, such as ice creams, gummy bears or jams, provide very stimulating sensations on the palate. For example, in the preparation of ice cream the fatty acid profile in the oil used causes changes in the ice cream’s melting and freezing point, achieving varying degrees of crystallization, smoothness and creaminess. The same thing happens in other cases such as with chocolate, where virgin olive oil has been used for the total or partial substitution of its own saturated fat content achieving chocolates with similar characteristics in terms of hardness and melting points as the conventional ones, but with a healthier factor that this star ingredient provides. A specific case is the creation of chocolate spreads with a high degree of consumer acceptance while bringing extra virgin olive oil closer to children in a more attractive format.

In other settings, extra virgin olive oil has replaced animal fat in the preparation of cooked meat-based products (patent Olivíssimo); Crismona marketed cold-cuts prepared with olive oil as well as raw burger meat (i.e.: hamburgers), which implies an improvement in the nutritional profile of this product representative of fast food, expanding its palatability.

Other virgin olive oil uses includes the liquid in canned products that, thanks to processes of diffusion and the exchange between the oil and the product’s fat, also improves the lipid profile of foods such as chorizo, pork, game, fish, etc. with the oleic acid and adding unsaponifiable compounds.

Thanks to new food technologies the presentation of extra virgin olive oil has been modified to fit the demands of today’s society. Techniques such as spherification are responsible for the so-called extra virgin olive oil caviar: beads of oil that preserve the sensory nuances and contribute to subtleties in the dishes being prepared, and in the tasting phase it provides a delightful explosion of aromas, a faithful reflection of the oils they come from. Another, perhaps more novel technique is micro-encapsulation, that allows to obtain oil powder. In a solid state the liquid gold can now access recipes and creations that remained out of bounds because of its liquid state, and provide further stability and longer shelf life both for the oil and the foodstuff, which entails a great revolution from a culinary point of view.

In short, extra virgin olive oil in any of its versions and/or ways of introducing it is a source of compounds with health benefits which, along with improved physical properties, delivers an array of sensory nuances that evoke a distinctive experience.


Mª Paz Aguilera, Head of Tasting Panel of Olive Oil in Citoliva for the EVOOLEUM GUIDE 2019.
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