Deoleo's Figaro brand of olive oil. Photo courtesy of Deoleo India.

Grandmothers from across India have become the unlikely stars of a tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial pro­mot­ing Spanish olive oil, in a quest to per­suade Indian food lovers that olive oil could replace tra­di­tion­ally used fats with­out com­pro­mis­ing the taste of local del­i­ca­cies.

In the heart­warm­ing clip, four Indian grannies were invited to a food tast­ing ses­sion. They were asked to give feed­back on their favorite dishes cooked by unknown chefs. While the grand­moth­ers were quick to com­ment on the lack of salt and use of spices; not one of the ladies noticed that olive oil had replaced the fats tra­di­tion­ally used in Indian cuisines.

Food is an emo­tion and wis­dom that brings peo­ple closer. To every Indian – grandmom’s spe­cial meal is the epit­ome of nos­tal­gia and uncon­di­tional love.- Satarupa Majumdar, Deoleo India

The mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tive aimed to dis­pel the wide­spread mis­con­cep­tion in India that olive oil only pairs well with Mediterranean dishes, such as pasta and sal­ads, and is not com­pat­i­ble with tra­di­tional Indian dishes.

Satarupa Majumdar, head of mar­ket­ing at Deoleo India told Olive Oil Times how they came up with the idea of get­ting the women on board to pro­mote their Figaro brand of olive oil.

See more: Cooking with Olive Oil

“Food is an emo­tion and wis­dom that brings peo­ple closer,” Majumdar said. “To every Indian – grandmom’s spe­cial meal is the epit­ome of nos­tal­gia and uncon­di­tional love. That’s been the thought.”

Majumdar said that the ladies were excited when they real­ized they were about to become olive oil super­stars and added, “they share the same sen­ti­ment of love for cook­ing for their dear ones.”

“Indian con­sumers are well versed on the health ben­e­fits of olive oil,” she con­tin­ued, although the most com­monly used oils in Indian house­holds con­tinue to be refined oils like peanut and sun­flower.

“Olive oil is used for light cook­ing in house­holds,” Majumdar said. “However, some peo­ple also use it as a mas­sage oil for skin.”

Since 2016, Deoleo has faced local com­pe­ti­tion fol­low­ing the launch of India’s own brand, Raj Olive Oil, which is pressed from olives cul­ti­vated in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Deoleo does not see the Indian olive oil as a threat to their Figaro brand, Majumdar said, and the data bears this point of view out. According to the Indian Ministry of Commerce, 76 per­cent of Indian olive oil imports came from Spain in 2018.

“The gen­e­sis of olive oil in India has been through imports and Figaro is the old­est brand with 100 years of legacy,” she said.

In 2018, import duties on olive oil soared yet again in India from 12.5 per­cent to 30 per­cent; a move which the Indian Olive Association described as “exor­bi­tant and extra­or­di­nary.”

Deoleo India, which pro­vides around 19 per­cent of the Indian olive oil mar­ket, announced plans to stream­line its cen­tral dis­tri­b­u­tion by bring­ing all the company’s man­u­fac­tur­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion and mar­ket­ing oper­a­tions to India.

Majumdar spoke of the evo­lu­tion of edi­ble oils in India say­ing, “We have been early adopters. We have pro­gressed from clar­i­fied but­ter to veg­etable short­en­ing (Dalda) to sun­flower oil and then pre­mium refined oil and so and so forth.”

She attrib­uted rapid changes fol­low­ing the intro­duc­tion of but­ter in the late 1990s to, “pre­mium func­tional oils mak­ing a dent in the mar­ket and lifestyle shows prop­a­gat­ing olive oil.”

“Mostly due to increas­ing aware­ness, brands came into the pic­ture, and spend­ing capac­ity increased. Now you find two to three types of cook­ing fats in an Indian house­hold.”


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