Olive oil has been consumed since ancient times and appreciated as a source of nutritious fats and as medical remedy, in addition to being praised in ceremonies. Today, when health is one of the top priorities of humankind, we examined what consumers believe and value about olive oil, which is generally considered a healthy product.
The Croatian Institute of Agriculture and Tourism survey examined the associations between the hedonic and health properties of olive oil, the motives important for olive oil consumption, and how these are influenced by healthy behaviour. There was clear evidence of the importance of culture, tradition, pleasure, olive oil health benefits, and healthy behaviour.
There was a strong association between healthy behaviour and olive oil benefit perceptions and motives for olive oil consumption, with the olive oil benefits associated with the motives to consume olive oil.
Since consumers were aware that fats should be limited in their diet, olive oil may be presented as a healthy alternative to other fats but used in moderation (the package/label might also indicate conscious use). This study examined the role of healthy behaviour on olive oil consumption motives and the mediation effects of olive oil health benefits perception on this relationship. The findings suggested that healthy behaviour supports olive oil consumption by directly influencing the motive to consume olive oil related to the product itself, i.e., the pleasure tourists get from the consumption of olive oil.
Additionally, olive oil health benefits mediate the relationship between healthy behaviour and both olive oil consumption motives, indirectly supporting the findings of how lifestyle influences consumption of functional foods and supporting the finding that perceived product health benefits influence its consumption motivation. The olive oil model showed similar results as the organic food one created by in which food health attributes were found important and linked to health.
The tourism and hospitality facilities that promote niche tourism such as wellness and healthy lifestyles, sport, and gourmet tourism may incorporate olive oil as part of their nutrition and cuisine offering. For olive oil producers in Croatia and Istria, the tourism market offers sustainability of sales near the production site, especially for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and organic olive oil. For tourists, the use of olive oil in different dishes during their vacation provides pleasure and the perception of doing well for one’s health, which may stimulate its future use. Possible scenarios also include locally grown olive oils being bought as a souvenir and presented to family and friends as healthy gifts from the vacation destination.