Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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or when they set up a [sampling station] and allow the customer to taste the product before they purchase it." While such merchandising comes at a cost, the reward can be long-term customer loyalty. "Olive oil has a very high customer acquisition cost, but it also has a very high retention rate when the product is good," says Russo- Tiesi. "You have that customer that keeps coming back for more." Flavored Oils Barons Market has enjoyed success with its olive oil and vinegar tast- ing bars, which have been rolled out to all of its stores. The bars carry 12 varieties each of olive oil and vinegar, which consumers can sample using small tasting cups or on slices of fresh baguettes. The retailer displays information about the origin and f lavor qualities of each of the oils on its tasting bar, and Shemirani says customers often explore the tastes of several different oils before choosing their favorite. She cites f lavored olive oils as generating excitement in the category. "Flavored olive oils are definitely creating a niche in the market, because people want to do something a little bit different," she says. She notes that demand for olive oil off the shelves has also grown. "It's an item that's still going strong," says Shemirani. "Our sales have definitely increased, even though the price and the cost of olive oil has increased." The retailer has been seeking solutions to minimize the price increases at the shelf. TASTING OLIVE OIL While olive oil has gained widespread adoption among consumers, many still might not understand the flavor qualities they should be looking for in a high-quality product. Brett Greenberg, a certified olive oil sommelier and the business development manager for private label at New York-based FoodMatch, a specialty food producer and importer that focuses on Mediterranean foods, says many consumers may only be familiar with the flavor of lower-quality olive oil. "I think consumers have grown accustomed to the sensory profile of what is not great olive oil," he says. "Once you become used to something, it's hard to correct that." For retailers considering offering olive oil tastings to educate consumers, Greenberg offers a few pointers: • Tastings should be done in an area free of other aromas, and tasters should not be wearing cologne or perfume, for example, so nothing interferes with the aromas of the olive oils. • The color of the oil is not an indicator of quality, Greenberg says, but the aroma is important. It should smell fresh and may have notes similar to fresh-cut grass or herbs, or citrus notes. • The taste should have what Greenberg calls a "pleasant bitterness," and a peppery or pungent quality that may induce a cough at the back of the throat. "It's not always the strength of those characteristics being an indicator of quality," says Greenberg. "It's the clarity and the cleanness of those characteristics." Qualities to watch out for include a rancid odor reminiscent of wax or wet cardboard, or a greasy residue. Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization that, among other efforts, promotes the Mediterranean Diet, also offers comprehensive guidelines for offering olive tastings on its website at: https://oldwayspt.org/system/ files/atoms/files/Med16_ MedOliveOilTasting_Guide.pdf SUMMER 2019 101 category education

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