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Q&A: Pompeian’s marketing innovation director discusses eliminating confusion in the olive oil aisle through education and innovation

Q&A: Pompeian’s marketing innovation director discusses eliminating confusion in the olive oil aisle through education and innovation
(Image credit: Pompeian)

This post is sponsored by Pompeian.

Consumers are cooking at home now more than ever, and the trend is driving demand for healthy pantry staples. Olive oil and vinegar are key ingredients in any cook’s cupboard, but shopping for the right bottle can be confusing. Pompeian has expanded its product lineup with new olive oil and vinegar varieties that aim to boost consumer confidence in the aisle and offer home cooks a product for every unique taste preference and cooking occasion. In this interview, Marketing Innovation Director Bill Monroe discusses the new product offerings and what drives innovation at Pompeian.


What drives innovation at Pompeian? How have consumer trends — including the drastic increase in home cooking in the last year — inspired product innovation?

As the leaders in the category, we’re dedicated to bringing the benefits of olive oil and gourmet wine vinegars to all consumers, providing them with the full breadth of high-quality, great-tasting flavor options to meet all taste preferences and everyday cooking occasions. This drives our innovation pipeline and allows us to innovate towards what’s best for our valued consumers and retailer partners. Over the last year, we’ve seen a huge spike and interest in at-home cooking and heightened interest in healthy, pantry staple items including our Pompeian olive oils and gourmet wine vinegars. 

While sales in our aisles boomed, confusion still existed in the olive oil aisle. Recent proprietary research revealed that consumer confusion makes the olive oil aisle difficult to shop, with shoppers spending over ten minutes trying to decipher olive oil benefits, the difference in types and how to best use it. We’ve been on a mission to eliminate confusion through education and innovation, and immediately set out to expand and refresh our olive oil and vinegar portfolios with this insight in mind. We’re excited to launch three innovations we think will help to eliminate confusion in the aisle, providing shoppers with a product for every unique taste preference and cooking occasion to help them Eat and Live Well. Our new products include Pompeian Organic Smooth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pompeian Rich Taste Olive Oil and Pompeian Rosé Balsamic Vinegar.

The new Rich Taste Olive Oil is part of a line that showcases the varying flavor intensities of olive oils. How does this approach help clear up some of the consumer confusion that is so common in the olive oil aisle?

We are very excited to bring innovation and a unique-to-category progression in flavor to our olive oil line. One of the biggest problems that exists in the olive oil aisle today is consumer confusion on which olive oil is best for specific recipes and cooking occasions, as well as confusion surrounding the taste shoppers can expect from each bottle. To answer that need, Pompeian’s refreshed olive oil lineup will now feature three distinct flavors, each with clear cooking occasions in mind. The line includes Light Taste Olive Oil, ideal for frying and baking, Mild Taste Olive Oil, for roasting and sautéing and the new Rich Taste Olive Oil — the first innovation in olive oil by a major brand since 1985 — perfect for grilling and sauces. Our olive oil line in particular is a great swap for unhealthy cooking fats like butter and vegetable oil, as it won’t compromise the flavor of your favorite recipe, but it will make it healthier. More often than not, shoppers try our olive oils before progressing towards our extra virgin olive oil offerings, and this innovative flavor progression will help bring new olive oil buyers along that olive oil taste journey, eventually helping them move across the shelf towards our EVOO offerings, unlocking further category growth.

Pompeian is transitioning its olive oil line to green bottles. What is the benefit of green bottles?

At Pompeian, we’re dedicated to improving our practices every day so that our retail partners and consumers get the highest-quality products for the best value. Our olive oil line will now be sold in green bottles alongside our EVOO line, to better protect and preserve the quality of consumers’ oil. The green/UV Barrier bottles protect the oil against light degradation, guaranteeing the best-possible preservation of quality, flavor and aroma. Our research shows that consumers prefer product in green bottles 2 to 1 before learning of their benefits and 9 to 1 after learning of the benefits. To ensure consumers are aware of this change, we will be printing neck tags on each of our olive oils to help educate shoppers on the new bottle’s benefits. Once home, shoppers can further protect their oil by storing it away from light, heat and air. To do so, we recommend storing your bottle in a dark, cool place, like a pantry or cupboard away from the stove and making sure the cap is secured when not in use.

What inspired the addition of the Organic Smooth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and how is Pompeian differentiating this product from the rest of the Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil line?

We are thrilled to bring our leadership in flavor to our Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil portfolio, expanding our line by introducing a fuller range of flavor experiences to our health and environmentally-conscious consumers. This expansion of our Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil line builds on the success of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil portfolio, which includes popular flavors Smooth, Robust and Bold. Our Organic portfolio now includes two unique flavors, Pompeian Organic Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pompeian Organic Smooth Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Our Organic Robust offering is full-bodied in flavor and ideal for salads and marinades, while our new Organic Smooth addition has a smooth, delicate taste that is perfect for sautéing and stir-frying. The initial introduction of Smooth EVOO in 2015 resulted in incremental sales growth to Robust EVOO, which really helped set the stage for our newest organic innovation.

What was the inspiration behind the Rosé Balsamic Vinegar, and what culinary applications is it geared towards?

As The Olive Oil People, years of experience have taught us what it takes to cultivate high-quality, delicious oils — an expertise that extends to our range of gourmet wine vinegars. Building on the success of our gourmet vinegar line, including Red Wine, White Wine and Balsamic, the new Rosé Balsamic Vinegar will boast a light, crisp and fruity taste, while offering our valued consumers new ways to dress, drizzle and marinate.

Bill Monroe is marketing innovation director of Pompeian, America’s largest national brand of olive oil, best-selling vinegars and a variety of cooking sprays. He was formerly CEO of Pompeian from 2005 to 2012. Monroe also founded and chaired the North American Olive Oil Association.