Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): a gastronomic fact, an export opportunity
On Wednesday 20 November, as part of the Gastronomic Forum and with the support of the International Olive Council, Prodeca hosted a panel discussion on extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with a number of stakeholders: producers, chefs, institutions, sommeliers, journalists and entrepreneurs. The event highlighted the culinary and business opportunities afforded by the olive oil sector, both in Catalonia and abroad.
Catalonia produces high quality olive oil. This is a product with exceptional characteristics, in terms of both health and gastronomy, as it is considered to be fundamental for a healthy diet and is also highly flavoursome. Covered by five different Designations of Origin, these olive oils stand out for their flavour, aroma and low acidity - qualities that are guaranteed by using top-class olives and mechanical production techniques that maintain the health and taste characteristics of the fruit.
With regard to the Catalan agri-food industry as a whole, with €2.2 Bn in turnover, oil represents 8.7% of the sector and almost 22% of the total sector in Spain. In addition, this product sells very well abroad, accounting for some €725 Mn in exports in 2018.
The gastronomic and economic outlook is therefore very good, and still has room for growth. The participants in the first panel discussion - journalist Carmen Alcaraz, producer Martí Terés (Oleum Flumen) and Magda Martí, responsible for foreign sales at Torres Import, underscored the lack of a culinary culture and coordinated storytelling to boost the perception of quality. “The wine sector is an example," said Montse Valera, the moderator and Prodeca's head of solutions, "and the way the oil sector is developing, in particular EVOO, is similar to wine in that efforts have been made in the last few years to raise awareness, make it tangible and explain it."
Part of this educational approach has been carried out by professional chefs, who also play a key role in marketing EVOO. In the second discussion, La Boscana chef Joel Castanyé, sommelier and oil gastronomy expert Montse Freixa, and the owner and sales director of Caviaroli, Santi Ramon, agreed that the greater commercial visibility of EVOO in recent years suggests a very bright outlook for the product. “We are still in an early stage in commercial terms but at the same time it is very stimulating. Until now we have worked on marketing, and we now need to focus on the content; the storytelling," added Montse Freixa on the surge of new brands in the sector.
To conclude the event, IRTA researcher and specialist in olive cultivation, olive oil extraction and nut production, Agustí Romero; chair of the Oil Cluster and Granadella Cooperative, Ramon Barrull, and the coordinator of the Interreg POCTEFA - TRANSGROWTH project, Anna Castellví, focused on international competitiveness and product promotion. From the packaging and recyclable containers to the Mediterranean diet, the needs of the sector and the future of olive oil involves all players: producers, packagers, distributors. “Catalan EVOO is an international point of reference," concluded Agustí Romero. On the current potential of foreign markets, Anna Castellví presented the POCTEFA-TRANSGROWTH project: a European initiative that seeks to identify initiatives in the oil sector that require a boost or support to continue. In short, this initiative aims to make these companies, and the sector as a whole, more competitive.