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Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00

A group studies the way to achieve that consumers know how to appreciate and distinguish the different types of olive oils

Research team Markuja Research team Markuja

A group linked to ceiA3 investigates how to turn the consumption of quality oils into a similar experience to that of wine, and how to get a higher final price

Research staff of the Agrifood Campus of International Excellence in (ceiA3) studies the marketing of olive oil to boost its market commercialization. “The future of this industry depends on the oil commercialized and the price at which it is sold," explains Francisco José Torres Ruiz, head of group linked to ceiA3 MARKUJA. "The price is the market value of a property or product, and if it is low is because the market does not value it" states the expert.

In this sense, the best way to get a decent price is that the consumer values the product and can distinguish the different types and qualities, and thus pay different prices for each. One of the main research lines of the group consists of studying how to make the olive oil a product valued by the consumer. According to the researcher, the oil is a low involvement product, that is, a commodity that does not matter too much to consumers, who do not care to find out about its features when buying it. According to various studies conducted by MARKUJA, most consumers are unaware of the different types of oil and its properties. It is not unusual to find in shops extra virgin olive oils cheaper than the standard ones. This is due partially to the system of classification of oil, which is too complex and technical and causes more confusion than clarification to consumers.

Francisco José Torres emphasizes that part of his team studies new ways of classification and nomenclature that are simpler and understandable to the buyer. According to the expert, the strategy developed by the staff responsible to promote olive oils never tried to facilitate the consumer’s learning process, achieving thus a state of constant confusion. "When all the products sound the same to the consumer and they do not have clear criteria to differentiate them, they focus on the only objective criterion at their disposal, the price," explains the researcher. We find thus products of different qualities uses that are equal to the consumer and that compete on price. This way the price is more visible and the consumer is more sensitive to its variations. It is not surprising therefore that it is used as an attraction in the distribution, which in turn contributes to lower prices", he adds. The ultimate goal is that consumers know how to distinguish the different types of oil and thus can differentiate the market prices. This would decrease internal competition, and exceptional quality oils could be valued more easily, and therefore have significantly higher prices.

The head of the group MARKUJA states that quality oils are the most damaged by the ignorance of the consumer since they cannot highlight their properties so that they are easily recognizable. The expert adds that in order to get a higher value product in the market, the key lies on the presumption that "when consumers are buying olive oil they do not think he or they are only acquiring a liquid, but an experience", just as occurs with wine. Another line of action of the group is aimed at promoting the oil-tourism to transfer to the consumer's mind this idea of olive oil as an experience. All these actions have the same purpose: that the final price of oil becomes higher and differentiated according to the various types and thus competitive after all. If the cake resulting from the whole process is bigger, so will be the profits of all the agents involved in the oil production -mills, packing plants, olive growers, collectors, etc. And for such purpose "it is essential that consumers know how to value and differentiate between different olive oils", insists Francisco Jose Torres.

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