In the June 2014 Market Newsletter #84 from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), The New York Fancy Food Show was highlighted with the following quote:
“The educational seminar held by the IOC on 30 June at the Fancy Food Show in New York drew an audience of approximately 165 people, chiefly importers/distributors who were the core target, plus exporters and media. A questionnaire has been prepared to ask for their appraisal of the event and to identify relevant topics for next year……………………………………… The other speaker was the Vice President of the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) who shared the outcome of a 2014 national attitude and usage study co-financed by the IOC. To cite a few of the findings, more than half of olive oil users use olive oil more than any other oil; once consumers become olive oil users, they tend to use it a lot; the overall trend is towards increased usage but more than half (56 %) of olive oil users find choosing an olive oil to be confusing because they are unaware of what factors are important to consider and many myths about olive oil persist. For example, respondents widely believed it to be true that:
❑ The color of olive oil is related to its quality (only 6 % knew this is false) ❑ Light-tasting olive oil has fewer calories than other olive oils (only 16 p% knew this is false) ❑ Like wine, olive oil gets better with age (only 24 p% knew this is false) ❑ Extra virgin olive oil is for cold or raw use only (only 30 p% knew this is false)”
However there was some good news. To quote the IOC Market Newsletter: “The good news that emerged from the survey is that there are increases in “non-traditional” areas for olive oil with non-whites, and those living in the Midwest and South.” Source – IOC Market Newsletter #84 June 2014
Now, considering that the attendees were all in some way involved in the Olive Oil industry, it clearly points to the need for some basic education to have the fundamentals known by all players.
The confusion cited above is understandable and is reminiscent with the days when wine was akin to a mystery for most people in North America, and food pairings were either the stuff of divine knowledge or snobbery.
Olive Oil appreciation and the dispelling of confusion will grow over time and may even go through a much shorter learning curve than wine did in the 70’s and 80’s…
These industry insiders are an important layer in the diffusion of knowledge and the more they can spread the Olive Oil gospel, the more hard-working producers will be recognized for the type and quality of product they make.
As far as all are concerned, I see this as a great opportunity for all aspiring Olive Oil tasters, someliers and educators; create a basic offering to guide people in the most fundamental aspects of Olive Oil, and build from there the more complex layers of detailed regulations and chemistry.