Olive oil makes inroads into Indian kitchens

Written by Joseph Vackayil | Chennai | Updated: Aug 31 2009, 05:30am hrs
Olive oil is becoming popular in Indian kitchens owing to an increasing awareness about its the nutritional values and abilities to reduce risks of various diseases. The International Olive Council, (IOC), a UNDP-promoted intergovernmental organisation based in Madrid, Spain, has been promoting olive oil in India since 2007.

In 2009, we are on a promotion drive with renewed vigour by holding roadshows and workshops and participating in food fairs and shows in major metros in India," Mugdalini Rappou, head of the department for promotional activities and trade fairs of IOC, told FE. The IOC is having a pavilion at the Aahar 2009 at the Chennai Trade Centre, the fourth edition of the International Food and Hospitality Fair.

Olive oil is considered the healthiest cooking medium across the world. It fights coronary heart diseases, as it has the highest content of monosaturated fats and low amount of harmful fats. It is also good for people with high blood pressure.

Rappou said olive oil consumption in India was around 1500 tonne in 2006. It increased to 2300 tonne in 2007, and owing to the promotional drive of the IOC coupled with efforts from the Indian Olive Association (IOA) the consumption is set to soar to 25, 500 tonne by 2010.

According to VN Dalmia, president of the IOA, the projected consumption for 2012 is 42,200 tonne. He said the hesitation to use olive oil in cooking would dissipate when consumers would come to know about the standard varieties of olive oil and the right type for Indian cusine. He said there are three varieties of olive oil--extra virgin olive oil, olive oil and olive pomace oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade with perfect aroma and flavour, as it is obtained from olives solely by mechanical or other physical means. But, it is not the best for cooking Indian foods. It is suitable for flavourings, dressings, making cold salads etc. Olive oil is the second or intermediary category and is a combination of refined and virgin olive oil. It is best suited for the Mediterranean cuisine. Olive pomace oil is the cooking grade oil obtained by treating olive residue paste after pressing of the fruit. It is low-priced and light with neutral taste and flavour and is the best for all methods, types and varieties of Indian cooking.

Dalmia said thoguh olive oil costs more than other edible oils, it is economical since it is enough to use one third of the quantity of other oils.