Interview with Toshiya Tada, Chairman of the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of JAPAN

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Toshiya Tada, Chairman of the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of JAPAN (OSAJ), will be leading this quest of more than ten olive oil professionals.

On the occasion of his upcoming visit to the WOOE, which will be held in IFEMA (Madrid) on the coming 2nd and 3rd of March, we offer an exclusive interview with this distinguished Japanese expert.

Question: The olive oil market in Japan has undergone an impressive growth over the last years, and Japan has become the key market in Asia by far, and one of the most important markets worldwide. In your opinion, which are the main reasons behind this phenomenon?

TOSHIYA TADA: The market expansion started in 2009, when one big product named “Econa”, which was artificially refined, stopped being sold. This product was very famous among the health-conscious consumers since it was a “New Dietary Food” and it reduced fat absorption. After this event, and since the promotion of olive oil as a healthy natural food became successful, a huge number of consumers started to switch from buying “Econa” to buying olive oil. So, in short, the market is expanding thanks to health-conscious people.

Question: How have OSAJ and Olive Japan activities contributed to this?

TOSHIYA TADA: We have made a huge contribution over the last 7 seven years. In 2009, OSAJ started its consumer education program, and since then we have trained more than 2.500 graduates. We not only educate people about quality and sensory analysis, but also about culture, history, cooking, food pairing and Health promotion from a nutritional point of view. This unique program is really well supported by many people, because it is a kind of “one-stop” school, where to learn olive oil in every possible way.

We became the largest and most trusted organization in Japan, as we strongly maintain our standpoint the correct fare and a consumer oriented position.

OLIVE JAPAN also contributed greatly. Thus, we intend a double-sided effect: on the one hand, the consumers in Japan should learn more and more about the quality of olive oil; and on the other hand, producers from Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia and all other producing countries should realize that there is a new great market: JAPAN.

This assertion is supported by much evidence, for example: in our 2015 competition, we received 441 samples from 22 different countries, and at our OLIVE JAPAN Marche event in April 2015, had over 200,000 visitors.

Question: What are the main challenges facing the future development of the olive oil market in your country?

TOSHIYA TADA: There are two key challenges. The first one is correct education and promotion about the quality. A lot of defective oil still occupies the market. We need to develop a more consumer friendly and quality oriented market. The other key issue is food application, because there are still many people wondering how they can use olive oil in their daily life and meals.

Question: Could you comment on the local olive oil production in Japan? Can it have a positive effect on market development?

TOSHIYA TADA: At this moment, the domestic olive oil production is too small to have an effect on mass consumers. The total olive oil production in 2015 was only around ten metric tons. The interesting point is that there is an increasing number of olive growers over the last three years. Of course this is because the consumption volume is rising, but I also believe that many people are starting to feel there is good potential for olive oil production in JAPAN.

Question: This year you will be attending the WOOE for the second time, which are your expectations regarding the 2016 edition?

TOSHIYA TADA: My participation in last year’s WOOE was really exciting. The show has a nice size and a nice concentration of mainly Spanish growers. The presentation of the olive bar is very beautiful; and the food pairing / cooking demonstration was breathtaking. I would hear more seminars, for example, I liked a kind of “battle” discussion between a small boutique producer against a large scale commodity manufacturer, and the quality debate by the governmental authority and the IOC, etc… Overall, I felt there was much potential, and I think the Show is improving each year.

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