Clearing out some dusty books I came across a 2011 publication sponsored by the European Union and Spain entitled ‘The surprisingly, marvellous, savoury, curious, healthy, historic, artistic and fantastic world of Olive Oil’. It is a beautiful informative book. The first significant pictorial of food comes on the 27th page. The preceding pages are full of production data, varietals, mythology, olive oil classifications and pictures of the olive groves of Spain stretching to the horizon.

The question is; does it sell olive oil to the consumer or is it a little self-indulgent, trying to satisfy those who paid for it first, the publisher, the producer organisations, the politicians and secondly persuade, incidentally, consumers? Is it trying to portray each of the facets described in the title? I am sure it has made money for the graphic artists, the designers, the authors and the administrators – I question the return to producers? My observation is that in the last 10 years since the publication of this book our narrative has not changed.

We hear endlessly of the Mediterranean diet pyramid in the context of olive oil sales.  Analysis of Google Trends in the USA shows that a slight upward trend in searches on the Diet does not seem to lead to increased searches for olive oil.

More relevant now that we see olive oil sales worldwide stalling is the inverse Marketing Funnel: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation, Purchase. The book will increase Awareness, may spark Interest, even evoke Consideration and Intent but I doubt that it will lead to serious Evaluation and Purchase amongst billions of potential consumers.

With all the industry’s sophisticated promotions on health and consequent wellbeing, recipes from celebrity chefs, we are failing to achieve sales and an increase in consumption. Consequently, there is oversupply, low prices and impoverished farmers. As a farmer who has taken to the streets many years ago, I understand the frustration leading to the farmer activism. However, any resolution achieved this way through political process will be short-lived – it always is. As an industry we must review how we sell our product and act personally to solve the problem for the long-term.

First, we must put ourselves in the position of the consumer who wants ‘Value for Money’. Let’s build a pyramid on value – flavour, health, versatility and affordability. Second, we must stop talking about the perceived downside of olive oil – smoke point, substitution, tariffs, oxidisation, defects. Let’s get it across to consumers that we are on top of these and call out anyone in the industry, producers and researchers, who tries to gain market advantage for their brand or organisation by publicising them.

As producers let’s put food upfront on websites which advertise our oil and promote value for money.

Let’s rebuild our narrative from the consumer’s perspective and not our own – then we will get serious Evaluation leading to Purchase. Then money may go from a trickle to a flood out of the bottom of the funnel.

Simon Field, 31 January 2020

This article was written by Simon Field, Founder of Savantes and published on LinkedIn (Follow Savantes on LinkedIn)