- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
A study conducted by UC Davis sensory scientists Claudia Delgado and Jean-Xavier Guinard found that consumers prefer rancid olive oil to the bitter and pungent olive oil favored by experts, said an article in Olive Oil Times. The findings suggest a need for consumer education to keep California olive oil in position for growth.
For the study, 110 consumers rated 22 commercial olive oils. Key findings:
- 74 percent said they disliked the oils identified as high-quality by expert tasters
- Consumers preferred oils with fruity attributes identified as nutty, ripe fruit, green tea, butter, green fruit and grassy
- 44 percent of the consumers liked sensory defects like rancidity, fustiness, mustiness and winey flavor
The story offered a few possible explanations. A large amount of defective olive oil labeled as extra virgin is available to consumers, and the bitter and pungent flavors typical of high-quality oils are an acquired taste.
Director of the UC Davis Olive Center Dan Flynn told reporter Lori Zanteson that California consumers have much to learn about olive oil flavor profiles
"A bitter profile is not necessarily bad," Flynn was quoted. “All these discussions and the availability of quality oils are contributing to this slowly growing knowledge that the consumer has.”
The research report, “How do consumer hedonic ratings for extra virgin olive oil relate to the quality ratings by experts and descriptive analysis ratings?” appears in the March 2011 issue of Food Quality and Preference journal.
In their article, Delgado and Guinard predict the California olive industry will be poised for exponential growth "as consumers learn about the many nutritional benefits and sensory qualities of extra-virgin olive oil."