April 19, 2010, 5:34 pm

A staple in the “shopping basket” used by the Office of National Statistics to track consumer trends, olive oil consumption in the UK has been rising steadily over the last 19 years.

The UK share of the world consumption of olive oil has risen from 1.9% to 2.9% between 1990 and 2009. The UK now consumes 28 million litres of olive oil per annum, all of which is imported, and sales topped £150 million a year for the first time in 2008. That is double the amount sold eight years ago and significantly more than the £90 million spent on vegetable oil. Half of UK homes now use olive oil compared with just 35 per cent in 2001.

In recognition of this, one quarter of the total budget for the biggest promotional campaign for olive oil undertaken to date in the European Union, will be spent in the UK.

Announcing details of the campaign, and the research into olive oil consumption trends in the UK it relates to, the Interprofessional Olive Oil from Spain (Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español), the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM), and the European Commission held a press conference today at the Spanish Embassy in London.

Speaking at the launch, Pedro Rubio, Vice-President of the Interprofessional Olive Oil from Spain, said: “In collaboration with The European Commission and MARM, we are committed to increasing consumption of olive oil in Europe. The nutritional, health and environmental benefits of olive oil production and consumption are highlighted in this new Europe-wide campaign which sets out to enhance the consumer’s perception of olive oil as a healthy all-purpose cooking product, offering a wide range of dietary benefits and exceptional culinary attributes.”

UK consumption trends – most popular oil in UK is extra virgin
Although overall the UK have seen an increase in the number of households using olive oil, its use tends to be restricted as a fine cooking ingredient or as a condiment for salads, rather than as a general-purpose oil for the kitchen.
Moreover, three key consumption trends have been identified, in relation to three qualities of oil:

– Extra virgin olive oil is used primarily for dressing salads, as a dip for bread and for preparing sauces.
– Olive oil (which contains exclusively refined olive oil and virgin olive oil) and mixed oil (including those containing olive oil and other vegetable oil) are used for cooking/grilling and preparing mild sauces.
– Vegetable oil (sunflower and other seeds) is used for frying.

In the UK, the most popular oil is extra virgin, but olive oil (a mixture of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil) is the type of olive oil that is seeing most growth in sales.

Olive oil in glass bottles is the most popular compared to plastic; containers of more than 1000ml are produced in plastic. The size of oil containers that are most popular are those between 750 and 1000ml, and currently consumers are tending to buy the bigger bottles/containers. Research also shows that the British public in general do not know that Spain is an olive oil producer.

In the UK, white-label now represents 55% of the total market in volume. The consumption of olive oil has increased by 60.000 tonnes between 1990 and 2008. Sales of €136 million were recorded for 2009.

A Europe-wide campaign – total budget €16.5 million
The new advertising campaign sets out to encourage British consumers to use olive oil for a wider range of cooking purposes, stressing its contribution towards maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.

The main aims of the campaign are to increase the consumption of olive oil by targeting distributors and consumers to improve the knowledge and understanding of olive oil and it’s potential for use in all kinds of cooking, while gaining the backing of opinion leaders. The key messages of the campaign will be adapted for each individual market; in the UK, focus is placed on associating olive oil with the benefits of a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle. Olive oil will be associated with slogans about “A sunnier life”, “A healthier life”, and “A livelier life”.

The campaign is being launched at a time when the production of olive oil is increasing, due to modern harvesting techniques and the emergence of new producer countries, against a decline in consumption – even in Spain, a traditional producer and consumer.

With a budget of €16.5 million, the campaign will last three years and will target consumers in Belgium, France, Holland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Approximately 25% or €4 million of the total budget allocated by the European Union will be spent in the UK, over the three-year period.

“The flavour of life” UK campaign
To reach the consumers directly, 42 press advertisements are featuring in national magazines and newspapers in the first year of the campaign. The promotional campaign in the UK will feature a highly-visible bus carrying the campaign’s image, which will distribute information and gifts at different sales points. A website dedicated to olive oil, www.aceitesdeolivadeeuropa.com will be launched in the coming months.


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