Research has indicated Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is shrouded in misconception and that many chefs are unaware of how the oil is produced, the variety of taste profiles available, its benefits, correct storage and its use in cooking and food preparation.

The project, Olive Oil Food Service Program (OL16004), a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Olive Fund, has been contracted to address the misconceptions of EVOO through education, in an effort to increase the usage and consumption of EVOO in the food service sector.

Nutrition Australia has been contracted to complete the two-year plan, which involves developing and delivering an education program targeting Australian trainee chefs and culinary school students.

The project’s focus for the first year is collecting information on the attributes, benefits and uses of Australian EVOO. The project will also explore competitor products and overall food trends relevant to the food service sector.

Beth Scholes, senior dietitian with Nutrition Australia’s Vic Division, said the project will provide insights into the current usage patterns for Australian EVOO, including the factors that drive its purchase and consumption within the sector.

“I think the common misconception is that you can’t cook with EVOO, that it’s more for salads or served fresh, and that the flavour is the same for all EVOO, whereas we know the flavour is different. It can be altered by the freshness of the oil and there’s a lot of factors that contribute to the taste,” she said.

The second year will concentrate on developing educational materials and delivering an education program, targeting culinary training institutes and trainee chefs on the attributes, benefits and uses of Australian EVOO.

Education materials will include short, snappy videos, fact sheets and a new webpage to offer something more visual and active, to increase the reach of the information and build awareness of EVOO.

Growers will also get their say on the matter when Nutrition Australia speaks with olive growers in New South Wales and Victoria about what they see as common misconceptions about EVOO, and what they’d like highlighted to the food industry.

Updates on the project will be available through Hort Innovation’s quarterly Hortlink publication, with the latest edition always available from the Olive Fund page at http://www.horticulture.com.au/olive.