Reaching the youngest: the great challenge for olive oil

"Analysis of product attributes and olive oil consumer profile" was the slogan of one of the activities prior to the World Olive Oil Exhibition, which brought together olive oil experts


After two years without being able to take place due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the World Olive Oil Exhibition, the world's largest monographic fair dedicated to olive oil, will be held again on 8 and 9 March 2022. To kick off the event, a few days ago a round table discussion was held, bringing together olive oil experts under the slogan "Analysis of product attributes and consumer profile of olive oils". Convened by Juan Villar, strategic consultant and advisor to the WOOE, seven experts from the olive oil sector met, along with Juan Peñamil, CEO of the Mercacei group and moderator of the event, Otilia Romero de Condés and José Luis Murcia, CEO and executive director of the WOOE, respectively.

When it came to analysing the attributes that trigger the purchase of olive oil, Juan Vilar highlighted the fact that "worldwide there are 198 consumer countries and 66 producer countries, so the profile of each of them is different: those who come from strictly consumer countries are more demanding customers because they have to make an effort to obtain the oil, something that those of us who live in a producer country don't have to do". In this sense, Ricardo Alcón, Client Development Manager of Nielsen IQ Spain pointed out that in "Spain the penetration level of olive oil is very high compared to oil from other seeds, but this means that olive oil coexists in homes with other types of oils. Understanding this coexistence is key to determining what makes a consumer choose olive oil".

Juan Graña, CEO of Neurological Sciencie and Marketing also saw it as important to point out that in Spain "olive oil is a priority because it belongs to our culture, in other countries it is necessary to build arguments to provoke that sale and it is the sensory part that builds consumer loyalty". "Indeed, the shopping experience is fundamental. At the point of sale you have to offer design, image, quality cuisine, health, etc... all of this is what is going to build the emotional decision that makes the customer decide to buy olive oil. Of course there is also a rational decision that is marked by culinary use, brand loyalty, price... but where we have to work harder is on the emotional level", comments Juan Carlos Marín, head of food markets at Alcampo.  

For Luis del Real, former Director of Market Analysis and Consumer Behaviour at Lactalis, purchasing decisions are very different depending on where the consumer comes from: "In the countries of the Mediterranean basin, where 80% of the world's olive oil is consumed, it is the use of the product that is the main attribute that determines the purchase. If we go to the rest of Europe and North America, studies tell us that more and more, sustainability determines the purchasing process and for the rest of the world, olive oil is a very ancillary product, they see it more as a delicatessen or a product to give as a gift, so it is not its use that determines the purchase". Following this line, Antonio Guerreiro, International Sales Manager of IFFCO, assures us that in the international context "three factors are capable of opening up new markets: health, the fact that it is a healthy fat, that it is the protagonist of the Mediterranean diet; the emotional part that is marked by aspiration, by the use of a premium product and the price".

The restaurant sector: key to introducing olive oil to young people

The fact that young people and even people under the age of 49 do not consume olive oil to the same extent as previous generations was another of the points discussed at the table. Sebastián Moreno, founding partner of La Casa del Aceite y Pópulo believes that "there is a lack of information to reach younger customers. There are many bloggers who talk about how healthy olive oil is and that is where we need to be to reach the younger public, but we lack information, technology, management of social networks...". In this sense, Soledad Román, Manager of the Centro de Interpretación Olivar y Aceite de Úbeda points out, "Regardless of the fact that young people eat out more, we are not focusing on their channels (YouTube, Instagram, Twitch)". "We have to help these generations to try, to experiment more with olive oil", said Ricardo Alcón, "Young people do not reject olive oil, it is a question of habits: they eat out more and perhaps we should emphasise that they use it when they cook because they do use it cold, as a condiment", commented Luis del Real.

All the speakers pointed out that the restaurant sector is key to introducing olive oil, especially among younger consumers, as they are the ones who eat out more. "The great challenge is to go to this sector and make them understand that olive oil is an added value. Apart from the functional part, we have to look for other values to achieve emotion", comments Juan Graña.  "Indeed, the fact that people under 49 years of age are rooted in the countryside, in the culture of olive oil, in traditions, is a minor reason why we have to create that story. Working on labelling, on the way the product is displayed on the shelves, much more segmented as they do in the wine sector, would be very effective", Juan Carlos Marín pointed out.

To conclude, Antonio Guerreiro pointed out that "it is the new consumers and markets, those who don't know what EVOO is, who have never seen an olive tree, who are our target. They are like babies who absorb everything". To which Sebastián Moreno added: "We have to work on education, just as in Jaén we teach children how oil is produced, we have to get closer to more distant territories. And, although the Horeca channel has indeed changed a lot and there are already restaurants that are very sensitive to olive oil, there are still a large number that, despite being of a high standard, use a basic olive oil because of the price, which leaves a lot to be desired". 

The World Olive Oil Exhibition is the leading international meeting for producers and buyers in the olive sector held in Spain. The ninth edition will take place on 8 and 9 March 2022 in Hall 2 of the IFEMA MADRID exhibition centre. The event is co-organised by POMONA KEEPERS and IFEMA MADRID.