Talking Shop with… Bill Monroe, Pompeian

Bill Monroe, managing director of marketing for Pompeian, talks about creating a market for blended oils.

PompWhat do retailers need to do to build sales in the olive oil segment?
Bill Monroe: Currently we are working with retailers to create a section in between the olive oils and the vegetable oils made up of alternative oils. Our venture into oil blends and grapeseed forced us to look at the category differently. Our goal is to create a bridge to transition people from vegetable or canola oil over to olive oil.

The big thing is bringing innovation to the retailer and working with the retailer to develop sections in the store to handle these unique oils. We are trying to help the retailer build a better consumer-base where people are looking for healthy alternatives with more than a regular vegetable oil. For example, we are working with an outside vendor for one retailer to create a display piece that advertises the new section of oils that they have in their stores.

How do you educate consumers about the qualities of the new oil blends?
According to research conducted in focus groups, the awareness has grown over the last several years drastically. However, I still think there is a lot of work to be done to publicize the benefits of these healthier oil blends. To reach consumers directly, we are embarking on a major PR program that will utilize everything from our webpages, to social media and bloggers. The consumer purchasing these products is educated and has a higher income. Their typical purchase is higher than average, so it is a good consumer for both Pompeian and the retailers.

What drives consumers’ purchasing decisions?
Consumers are looking for things that are natural, healthy and do not contain chemicals. The message we want to send is that you can get everyday products at a reasonable price that happen to be good for you and taste delicious. You do not have to pay double the amount for something that may be organic. We always try to deliver something at a competitive price. It is a tough thing to do but something we are always working on.

What innovation is Pompeian bringing to the olive oil category?
About eight years ago we diversified our portfolio from regular, extra light and extra virgin olive oil to blended oils. What we wanted to do was give the consumer a healthier oil option and a great value. We created a bridge between the vegetable oil category, which has been declining over the years, to the olive oil segment. The first product was OlivExtra, a blend of extra virgin olive oil and canola oil. The line now includes a number of blends and has expanded to 100% grapeseed oil, which we are now the leading brand nationally.

The popularity of grapeseed oil has led us to create a grapeseed oil spray. What makes this spray different from other oil sprays is the construction of the can. The vendor we worked with to develop it uses a different packaging process and compressed air to create pressure instead of a propellant, as most other sprays use. The benefit is that there is nothing but pure oil in the can. The product is all-natural, tastes great and can be used for frying or on the grill. There are no artificial ingredients, additives or propellant—and the packaging is really gorgeous.

Do you plan on expanding your olive oil offerings?
Yes. We have introduced a line of high-end olive oils called Varietals. Instead of positioning the olive oils from their country of origin, each of the olive oils are made from a single variety. There are more than 1,000 varieties of olives in the world and each has a unique and distinct taste.

The three varietals—Arbequina (mild-bodied), Picholine (medium-bodied) and Koroneiki (full-bodied)—all have a unique taste profile. Each variety of olive makes an extra virgin olive oil with less than 0.5% of acidity. The idea is to treat olive oil like the wine category. Right now in olive oil we have “red” and “white,” but we want to talk about the “Merlots” and the “Cabarnets” of olive oil, and where they come from. All the bottles include a code that consumers can use to trace the variety back to the farm it came from.

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