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In Japan all people is mad for the extra virgin olive oil

The innate curiosity of the Japanese people can be considered as a mania. They know everything: origin place, sensorial profile and olive varieties…

We met the alimentary technologist Daniela Capogna for knowing about her experience in Japan as scientific disseminator of the extra virgin olive oil culture.

Daniela Capogna

What come out from your experience in a culture so foreign to olive oil? After the great passion for that in past years, when the oil was a real fashion, is it now still intact such an interest for oil among people?
The Japanese people are really curios, especially about gastronomy. As for the olive oil, the 90s fed was not passing. Japanese people know the olive oil and their innate curiosity, sometimes a maniacal curiosity, brings them to know many details about it; details that typically are unknown by Mediterranean people. For instance, they know for oil the origin place, the sensorial profile and the cultivar. The high quality supply of oil from the big distribution is something that is difficult to equal in the European distribution.
The first small oil imports begun in the first 80s; as a matter of fact, in the period 1980-1985 the oil consumption per capita was 0.005 liters, the equivalent of a coffee spoon per year. Now the consumption is 0.3 liters circa, with a 6000% increment. According to a poll done by the Japanese Association for vegetal oils, by considering a sample group of 860 housekeepers between 20 and 69 years old in the Tokyo and Osaka area, the olive oil is known by the 99% of the sample (100% for people between 30 and 39) and it is used by the 65%.
The consumption increment can be in part attributed to the promotional campaign done by the International Olive Oil Council between 1991 and 2001. In that period the Council, which represents the world authority for olive oil and alimentary oil, supported a series of events aiming at inclining the soy-country toward the only oil obtained from a fruit, the olive oil. For over a decade the Council sponsored scientific meetings and Mediterranean gastronomic events and presented oil products at the main fairs, such as the Foodex, and on TV and radio programs.
Then, the olive oil is one of the rare products that resists to the change of alimentary fashions and continues to grow in importance.

Is it the oil still considered a food with a great healthy value?
The olive oil has been associated to health since the first imports in the first 80s. As a matter of fact, it is known that the Japanese people care a lot about health, which is a pivotal element in Japanese culture. All the same it is not the only aspect they appreciate in it. They carefully consider the sensorial characteristics, as well. It is noteworthy that recently a course on the olive oil sensorial characteristics was held at the sommelier association. This is an important step, but even more important is the competence gained by the local instructors, that should now be in some way certified.

by L. C.
05 october 2009, Technical Area > Olive & Oil