July 06, 2003
The IOOC organized its first marketing strategy seminar in response to the realization that as olive oil becomes more of a global commodity marketing strategies which are consumer oriented vs. product oriented become more important. The seminar has important implications for California producers.
Conclusions and recommendations were summarized in an article in Olivae, the official publication of the IOOC. Call was made for better cooperation on a North South and South South level to modernize the industry. The Olive oil sector is more than a source of income and employment. It involves land management, conservation, preservation of family farms and protection of cultural values. Quality needs more attention through upgrading growing, processing and storage technologies. While cost leadership has in the past been an appealing marketing strategy, differentiation of olive oil as a quality product makes more sense in today's global oil market. Promotion needs to be intensified. Per capita consumption of olive oil is still low, especially in high-income countries. Younger consumers consume less oil so they are important targets of education and marketing activities.
So what does this mean for the California Olive Oil business? Producers here have tried to distinguish themselves as a premium segment of a premium oil. Higher olive oil quality will help increase olive oil acceptance and consumption but will make it more difficult for US producers to differentiate on quality. Labels, containers, regional flavor and appellation may become more important as the tide of quality worldwide rises.