Voices 31/01/2015

The olive oil "art of the blend" is a bluff

After months in which olive oil bottlers and their acolytes have struggled to explain that the farm or “hand made” olive oil (olio di oliva artigianale) is only an invention, they decided a change in strategy.

If you can not beat them, join them ... the saying goes.

So, after denying the existence of the “hand made” oil, that's industrial and bottlers are scrambling, a few weeks, to explain that, deep down, they are also craftsmen.

All thanks to an expression of newly minted, a blend of the words "the art of the blend."

This diction, I must admit, has a certain charm.
Recall the art, culture and craftsmanship, ie the cornerstones of Italy, uniting it to an English word that smacks of innovation, science and the future.
This diction wants to give the impression and the illusion that, behind the bottle we buy to 2.99 euro / liter in the supermarket, there is a mythological figure struggling with test tubes and stills.
The expression is effective. Congratulations to those who created it.

Too bad, just scratching the surface, you find that it is a bluff.

There is in fact nothing less artistic than blend developed by bottlers and oil industry.

There is no genius, creativity or inspiration, but there is a desk study, operated by a group.

They are professionals trained and qualified. I respect them and their work, which, however, is very different from art.
It starts from the marketing that studies tastes and flavors, the desires of the consumers, creating a profile like and then associating, based on accurate market research, the price.
The result is a theoric blend and accurate trade specifications for the purchasing department, which will have to go look for oil, in the Mediterranean and beyond, which meet the requirements set by the marketing.
Once made this initial screening, oils pass office quality. In this section, composed of chemical and tasters, occurs standards compliance, regulatory and business.
Then proceed to blend real, or are mixed oils of different origins to obtain one that fulfills both the requirements of the law as to the dictates of the marketing department.
All this work must eventually bring a profit.

Obviously, as described, the "art of the blend", sounds a little 'tank, commercial and objectively devoid of charm and appeal.
A business like any other.

Hardly, describing things as they are, you can differentiate and add value.
Bottlers and industrial know, they can't sell only oil, but an image, the idea that behind a bottle from 2,99 € / liter there is a craftsman, more, an artist.

Now that the old magic formula ("imported from Italy" and "product of Italy") no longer works, or is highly contested, although bottlers must invent something else.
The "art of the blend" is therefore the new frontier of bottlers and oil industry to hope to recover lost market share in recent years.

The "art of the blend" is not just a bluff, but it could mean to gift the culture of Italian olive oil into the hands of globalization. Not more farm or olive mills, only bottlers.
Would we really want it?

di Alberto Grimelli

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