The time is ripe for a global extra virgin olive oil reboot. Plagued by never ending scandals and ongoing fraudulent labelling we need to return to the roots of olive oil marketing. The truth is the health protective and health promoting properties of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) were marketed far better 2,500 years ago than they are today! Back then they used the Olympics as a marketing tool to showcase the health benefits of olive oil. ( Yes its true Hellenic culture invented marketing as well ) This is why they crowned the winner with a wreath made from an olive branch. Today we market coca cola using the athletes as spokespeople and their achievements as proof. We alsohave an endless array of EVOO competitions that award gold medals for strongly aromatic extra virgin olive oils; as if olive oil is a condiment!
This would be like creating a beauty pageant for scientists and judge them on their looks instead of their substantial achievements.
This is exactly how we have been judging EVOOs based on their aroma instead of their health benefits. There may be a certain statistical correlation of beauty and brains just like there may be a correlation between a gold medal for taste and health benefits. But not always… do you judge your doctor based on their looks or their ability? Their certificates are usually on the wall. They describe the specific training they received and the level of competence. This is how extra virgin olive oil can now be judged as well. Using the NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) We can measure accurately each phenolic compound and know the benefit each would bring to the table. The concentration of phenolic compounds is fast becoming the new way to determine price and value of olive oil. In a perfect world this is how it would work.
Taste would be used to determine the freshness and taste category and the phenolic compound concentration would be measured by the NMR method. This is our legacy and the reason that Greece is home to the highest phenolic olive oils in the world.
The good news is the perfect world has arrived. Now we have the ability to measure the concentration of each phenolic compound present and the approximate length of their stay in EVOO. Phenolic compounds degrade over time so the more you start with the more you get by the time you open the bottle. The Aristoleo Awards have exposed substandard methodology and mistaken results at certain of the IOOCs. Tasting hundreds of olive oils within a very short period is a recipe for errors in judgement.
Up until recently the health benefits of olive oil were based solely of the monounsaturated fat content and this only if you replaced the animal fat intake with olive oil. So if that is the basis of your health claim then I can understand how the olive oil industry adopted the wine tasting methods for olive oil competitions. Under this monounsaturated health benefit criteria there is no difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil… same healthy fat content. So they needed the taste competitions to separate the EVOO from the VOO and the OO. “Yes they are both healthy but this one tastes good too and its pure olive fruit juice!”
Now that we have the NMR method of accurately measuring the phenolic content we need to remake the rules. Where does taste come in? Taste analysis is very important so the consumer can be informed about the freshness and intensity of flavor, A fine balance between the taste and test will lead to a more objective results in competitions and a more even playing field for small producers who produce this highly prized early harvest high phenolic EVOO.
In every consumer survey conducted they are very clear as to why they buy olive oil: for the health benefits. 90% of them place health benefits on top of the list of reasons to purchase olive oil. Up until just a few years ago the known general health benefit was solely based on the Mediterranean Diet. Replacing the saturated animal fat with monounsaturated fat derived mainly from olive oil. Now we have a more specific and powerful benefit derived from specific phenolic compounds that are found only insignificant quantities in early harvest extra virgin olive oil.
What most consumers are now realizing is that it is not the taste that separates the olive oils but the concentration of the phenolic compounds.
The international olive oil competitions are no longer the sole arbiters of quality. They have their place in determining whether the olive oil is free from any defects but a subjective method of taste cannot be a substitute for scientific proof. The NMR method of accurately measuring each phenolic compound has changed the face of the olive oil industry.
High phenolic olive oil represents the future of the olive oil in perfect harmony with its glorious history. Health conscious consumers are demanding transparency, accountability and proof the olive oil they are paying for is the olive oil they were promised.
Taste alone has not worked. Scandals and adulteration continue to thrive. Time for science to step in and fill the void of the marketing failure of modern olive oil industry and their substandard olive oil competitions.
TESTED, TASTED AND TRUE
High Phenolic EVOO has arrived.