Indian Olive Oil market is poised for strong growth in coming years

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With leading brands proactively investing in creating consumer awareness about Olive Oil in India, Indian Olive Association is hopeful of achieving at least 25% CAGR growth of the category in the India edible oil market over the next five years.

P Krishna Kumar finds out from Rajneesh Bhasin, President of the Indian Olive Association, who is also the Managing Director of Borges India, about the market opportunities of Olive products in India market.

Q. Could you briefly explain the journey so far for Borges India?
A. Borges Mediterranean Group is a billion dollar company worldwide. Established in 1896, the group is into all the key Mediterranean food categories today starting from Olive Oil to Table Olive, wine based vinegars, nuts, pastas and pasta sauces, and popcorns. Olive Oil is the mainstay of the company globally and we are one of the top three brands in the world and second largest exporter of Olive Oils from Spain. The Group has subsidiaries in eight countries. Borges India got established in 2009 is a fully owned subsidiary of Borges Mediterranean Group. In the last five years, Borges India gradually introduced all the product categories in India market, except the popcorns. As we rolled out our products, we also tried to spread awareness about the Mediterranean diet in the India market.

We started practically as an unknown brand in the market, which was already cluttered with over 40 other players. Five years down the line, we can proudly say that we are the market leaders in the edible oil space. When we started, the product category was around 3,000 tonnes in India predominantly driven by the massage oil. Over the years, the category has grown to 11,000 tonnes, with a major shift, almost 70%, being edible olive oil. Borges is a market leader in the edible olive oil space in India market today.

We work directly with the modern trade in the country, while we have distributors for the traditional retail and HoReCa segment. In the hospitality industry, we service all the leading hotel chains in the country today.

Q. What are the trends you see in the consumption pattern between HoReCa and retail segment in India for your products?
A. Although Indian consumers are not quite well versant with Mediterranean diet in general, Italian food is quite popular in the market. Therefore, hotels and hi-end restaurants serving Italian cuisines were target market for Mediterranean products like Olive oil for a very long time. However, the trends have changed over the last few years. Borges has taken a lead in the market in creating awareness through television advertising, etc. in the market. Although the market recognized the health benefits of Olive Oil in general, they were apprehensive about the flavour and taste aspects when used in Indian cuisines. In order to fill that need gap, we launched Extra light Olive Oil. While it has all the health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this product category addressed the fruity flavour. The sub-category was a run away success. As the smoking point is high in refined extra light oil, the product appealed to Indian consumers.

When we entered the market, 60% of Olive Oil market was for Pomace Olive Oil (the entry level category). We adopted a different strategy by bringing in Extra light Olive Oil. Slowly, the market graduated from Pomace to refined Olive oil. The Pomace market base shrinked over the years. Today, more than 60% of the Olive Oil market is shared by Extra Virgin and Extra Light (refined) Olive Oil.

Q. What kind of growth Indian Olive Association expect in coming years for Olive Oil in the edible oil space in India market?
A. The category has grown from 3,000 tonnes to over 11,000 tonnes over the last five years. It is a commendable achievement. We want to take it to 40 to 50,000 tonnes in the next five years, which we feel is fairly attainable. The product category has been growing at a CAGR of 30 to 40% so far. Even if the market maintains a minimum 25% CAGR growth, we will be able to achieve the targeted growth.

Due to Indian Olive Association’s persistent lobbying, the duties have come down drastically over the years. After the classification, the duty on extra virgin oil has come down from 450% few years back to 0-2% and of refined olive oils to 7 to 8% . This has really helped in propelling the category growth. Currently, table olives are at a disadvantage because of higher duty, and the Association is working on it as well.

Q. What are your plans to create category awareness in the market especially among the HoReCa segement?
A. Our strategy is to target the fence-sitters through targeted marketing and branding activities. Although there are hundreds of players in the market, hardly four or five are serious players. These brands are ready to invest in the market to grow the category. Indian Olive Association is also engaging the Spanish Olive Oil Exporters Association, ASOLIVA, in a big way. ASOLIVA has committed some budget for media campaign in India market for three years. These investments will definitely help create awareness and growth of the category in the market in coming years.

We have worked with the Doctors community in the past and received good response. In the similar fashion, the Association wants to engage the Chef community as well. There is limited awareness about the product category among the Chefs. We will try to partner with them in their annual events, etc. in future.

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