Imported edible oils find growing market in India

February 20th, 2011 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Robert Hunter By Priyanka Sahay and James Jose
New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Increasing health consciousness among Indian consumers, aided by growing purchasing power, has led to a spurt in the use of premium imported edible oils like olive and rapeseed and a number of foreign companies are vying with one another to tap the large market.”There are two main factors which have led to the popularity of olive oil in India. Increase of income per capita in the country and increasing awareness for the healthy benefits of olive oil,” Teresa Solbes, commercial counsellor at the Spanish Embassy, told IANS.

India sources a majority of its olive oil supplies from Spain. At present, Indian imports of olive oil stand at about 7,500 tonnes per year. Some of the Spanish olive oil brands in India include Borges, Figaro, Carbonell, Leonardo and Bertolli.

In its efforts to promote olive oil, the Spanish embassy has been running campaigns for the last three years in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. This year, it will add one more city - Chandigarh.

As part of the campaigns, Spanish olive oil companies visit health clubs, residents welfare associations, and schools to create awareness about the healthy effects of olive oil. They also provide people with a 20-ml sample of olive oil and a recipe book.

Canadian companies too are pitching for canola oil - a form of refined rapeseed oil, which they claim outweighs the advantage of olive oil. The Canola Council of Canada (CCC), a trade association representing the canola industry, claims that the oil has the least amount of saturated fat and the most Omega-3 fats among all cooking oils.

“Apart from its health benefits, which is far better than other oils like olive, canola oil has high heat tolerance and a neutral flavour making it well suited for Indian culinary application,” Robert Hunter, vice president (communications), Canola Council of Canada, told IANS.

Last year, canola oil exports to India from Canada stood at 721 tonnes, tripling from that in 2009.

Hunter too contended that the spurt in demand was to a large extent because of increasing disposable income levels in the country.

Some of the Canadian canola oil brands present in India include Hudson, Jivo and Sattvic.

However, both the oils are priced at a premium. While olive oil costs around Rs.300 per litre, canola oil is at Rs.195 a litre, thus restricting their use to fairly well-off households. Hence, cost-conscious housewives will have to balance the health benefits and a rising monthly budget.

But companies are mulling measures to bring down costs.

Solbes said in order to lower the prices, many Spanish companies are also planning to plant olives in India.

“There is a plan of Spanish companies to plant olives in India. The land is good here and it is possible to plant olives here. If the companies start producing the olives locally, the price would of course come down in the long run,” Solbes said.

Experts recommend the use of these oils, or if they seem too expensive, use a combination of locally-available alternatives.

“Canola oil and olive oil are comparatively healthier because of their high mono-unsaturated fatty acid composition (MUFA) and it is highly recommended that one should switch to oil with high MUFA than with high poly-unsaturated fatty acids,” said Seema Gulati, chief project officer, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation.

For those who cannot afford such premium oil, Gulati suggests a combination of different oils including mustard oil, soyabean oil and sunflower oil.

“Different oils offer different fatty oil composition. Ideally one should use oil in combination and rotation,” Gulati said.

But she added: “Compare the cost of the medical treatment to the price of these premium oils… then it would not appear to be expensive.”

(Priyanka Sahay can be contacted at; James Jose can be contacted at )

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