Flavor was the primary reason for selecting olive oil over other oils, according to 80 percent of the survey respondents. The survey coordinators noted that this result is significant, because earlier studies have indicated that two-thirds of the top-selling olive oil brands analyzed by the UC Davis Olive Center were found to have rancidity and other defects. The researchers suggest that consumers may be developing an affinity for substandard flavors, and that olive oil producers would be well advised to develop strategies for introducing more consumers to the flavor of high-quality extra virgin olive oils.

Eighty percent of the respondents also indicated that they chose olive oil as a healthier alternative to other oils and fats. Because of the importance of health benefits to consumers, olive oil producers may want to conduct research on the comparative healthfulness of the various grades of olive oil, survey coordinators suggested.

When asked to describe desirable olive oil flavor, nearly 80 percent of the respondents agreed that “fresh” was a good descriptor — which is in sync with industry standards. However, the terms “fruity,” “peppery” and “grassy” — also common terms use to describe high-quality olive oil — did not resonate with most of the survey respondents. These findings suggest that olive oil producers might want to highlight freshness over other lesser-understood terms in their packaging and marketing efforts.

Flynn collaborated on the survey and report with lead researcher Selina C. Wang, research director for the UC Davis Olive Center, and Ben Moscatello, a senior business analyst and alumnus of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

The UC Davis Olive Center was founded in 2008 as the first university-based olive research and education center in North America. As a self-funded university center, it continues the university's century-old effort to assist California's olive producers and processors as their industry enters a renaissance, with novel farming techniques and rising consumer interest in olive oil and table olives. The center's collaborative efforts have produced research in food chemistry, mechanical harvesting, olive fruit fly control, olive processing and sensory evaluation of olive oil. This research provides opportunities for graduate students to receive scientific training and earn advanced degrees.

 

More from Western Farm Press

Farmer’s death puts national focus on killer bees

Got wine grapes?

Honey bees a landmine solution?

15 must-ask questions before buying farmland

8 keys to a better wine grape grower contract

Cliff Young — the farmer who outran the field

Almond growers groom $3 billion crop

Sustainability matters to wine consumers

Honey bees: About those neonics