TM INT ENG - Associazione Olives Road

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Interview to: Tommaso Masciantonio

1:Can you tell us how was this year's oil campaign in terms of quality and yield? And the peculiarity of your extravergin olive oil ( EVOO)?

In terms of the quantity this year’s oil campaign brought either in our olive growing areas or in our company an average year. From the quality point of view, we found it excellent with healthy, large and pulpy fruits. As for our extra virgin olive oil, this vintage is rich in aromas, with higher concentration in phenolic substances ( bitterness and spiciness ) due to the  adequate value of rainfalls.

2:How was used olive oil at your home in your childhood? Do you remember any your favorite traditional recipes based on olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil ( EVOO) has been always used from generations in our family, because we run our family-own oil mill since 1948. I grew up in this world, appreciating, since I was little, more and more olive oil in itself. In our family, also neighbours, olive oil has been widely used in all dishes, even for desserts, as for it was the only cooking fat available in greater quantities.

3:Have you never thought another job instead of passing down your family run oil mill?

I have always loved the world of EVOO and therefore I have thought nothing but than continuing our family-run olive mill.

4:Do you think that the high quality restaurant ( the world of catering) could be fundamental for creating the synergy with the producers of  excellent EVOO in the view to offer consumers opportunities for the discovery of this product rich in fascinating diversities, history and pleasure?

I consider that the high quality catering could create synergies and link between restaurant owner, chef and producer of high quality EVOO.

5:Given the lower profit margins compared to wine, do you have any suggestions for enhancing the wise use of EVOO in the kitchen and at the table? Do you believe that the EVOO list and/or the EVOO servicing cart  can be effective for the enhancement of its ideal promotion?
Oil lists and oil serving carts are surely good elements that highlight the characteristics of the EVOO, but just one of the vehicles and not the only one.

6:In Italy for most people it is important in choosing an EVOO at the expense of money. Abroad often the Italian consumer discover Italian excellent EVOOs, which ignores its existence. This is because many industry-related organizations and professionals organize abroad training proposals, aiming at rising awareness of foreign consumers, buyers and those who work in the agri-food sector. What can be, in your opinion, the solution to this obvious contradiction?
Unfortunately in Italy there are still many consumers who give more importance to price rather than quality. I believe that the ideal way to solve or at least attenuate this discrepancy is "informing, forming the consumer" making him understand the difference between a quality oil and a non-quality one, explaining why there are EVOOs at higher costs. Only in this way, "informing and making consumers conscious of the concept of quality", I believe that we can solve these problems.

7:The entry into force of the law of the "refilling-proof closure" which requires restaurant owners to adopt bottles equipped with this device for table service. Do you consider that this legislation is effective and that protects the consumer, even though it does not mention the oil used in the kitchen?
The entry into the law which oblige the refill-proof closure did not create any problem to our company, since we applied it even before, by our own choice. It is surely a good outset, but the use of this device could not solve the problems of the Italian olive oil sector, I think that this law can not completely protect the end consumer.

8:What results do you expect from strategies that lead consumer to understand and explore the historical and cultural value of the essence of the olive? What considers may be of the tourism initiatives such as olive oil related tourism in your territory ( the so-called oleo-tourism)?

I believe that the initiatives such as the olive oil related tourism are, without doubt, an optimal element to let consumers even more love the EVOO. It’s important to visit  oil mills and olive oil producers, making them known the reality of olive growing and olive oil processing, discovering the intrinsic culture linked to this product, territory and how important the EVOO would be for each family, in other words, retracing a traditional route while seeing and experiencing the reality: what is the oil production of our generation.

9:Unlike Spain and some emerging non-traditional olive growing countries where a broad range of olive oil-centered training workshops is held in order to make consumers conscious of both its choice and its culinary use, a large part of the people in Italy prefer, on the contrary," turbid/murky" or "curd / grezzo" EVOO, believing that this should be an element of genuineness. Do you consider that this is caused by a lack of  formation and information initiatives?

An unfiltered olive oil should not be necessarily considered a lower-quality oil, which is an oil that needs especially more meticulous attentions in preservation. A filtered oil, on the other hands, undergoes a momentary depletion in terms of organoleptic and phenolic features, it guarantees a more constant and stable self-life, leaving us tranquillity.

10:How do you think it is possible to make people understand the difference between an excellent EVOO with high organoleptic, nutritional and culture value and one devoid of any personality and of less value? And how could it make comprehend the real cost of a quality EVOO?

In order to make understand the difference between a valuable higher quality EVOO and a lesser-quality one, it is indispensable to invite consumers to compare these two products of different quality categories.  What is the most important here is that the consumer recognize every high quality EVOO conceals man's hard work and dedications throughout the entire olive oil production value chain, from the olive orchard, through an accurate processing, to its preservation. It is, furthermore, very important to explain to the consumer the organoleptic features ( bitterness, spiciness and aromas ), whose inherent values and then, wherever possible, to lead him to taste and sample various types of EVOOs so as to highlight all of these peculiar characteristics. The higher costs of quality EVOOs are related to various indispensable corporate job steps which require for the production of "a higher quality EVOO". For a better understanding of the concept of quality, we should explain and transmit to consumers the reason why they should pay more for a precious product.

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