Refined olive oil (ROO) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) categories are different products with respect to their objective quality. Nevertheless, this quality gap is not reflected in the purchase behaviour of consumers in Spain, which is the main producer country worldwide. On the basis of economic theory, the price gap could be a part of the explanation; however, the objective price gap between EVOO and ROO has been on average around €0.40 kg−1 since the 2007/2008 crop year in Spain. Therefore, this paper contributes to a more in-depth understanding of those factors, besides price, affecting consumers' decision-making process in olive oil markets. We examine how consumers build their purchase preferences towards two products – namely EVOO and ROO–based on their evaluative judgements shaped by person-related and environmental factors. In doing so, a theoretical model is proposed and an empirical application in southern Spain is presented, using variance-based structural equation modelling (SEM) by means of partial least squares path modelling (PLS). The results show how attitude towards EVOO and ROO play a key role in explaining both EVOO and ROO consumption. In addition, taste preferences are shown to have an overriding moderator effect on the relationship between attitude towards ROO and consumption. Negative anticipated consequences regarding EVOO are core to shape consumers' attitude towards ROO and also influence attitude towards the own product. Meanwhile, healthy shopping habits affect mainly attitude towards EVOO and the perceived value of private brands influences attitude towards ROO.
Olive oil markets are continuing to raise their profile internationally, although the highest levels of per capita consumption are still found in the main traditionally producer countries, such as Spain, Greece and Italy (IOC, 2015). More specifically, Spain is by far the largest olive oil producing country in the world, accounting for 40% of worldwide production, 80% of which is concentrated in southern Spain (MECD, 2017). However, when assessing olive oil, it should be borne in mind that the generic designation “olive oil” applies to different market categories available for consumption (European Commission, 2012a). These categories differ in quality, composition and organoleptic properties, especially when comparing refined olive oil (ROO1 ) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) categories. ROO, which is obtained through an industrial refining process, is a colourless product with neither flavour nor aroma. It is blended with a non-regulated small percentage of virgin olive oil which gives it the organoleptic properties (Cabrera, Arriaza, & Rodríguez-Entrena, 2015). On the other hand, EVOO is a product obtained directly from olives by solely mechanical means; it is thus made entirely of olive juice, maintaining its healthy and organoleptic properties (see, e.g., Inarejos-García, Androulaki, Salvador, Fregapane, & Tsimidou, 2009; Amirante, Clodoveo, Tamborrino, Leone, & Paice, 2010; Inarejos-García, Fregapane, & Salvador, 2011; Clodoveo, Dipalmo, Schiano, La Notte, & Pati, 2014). Therefore, the two products are completely different with respect to the health of the olives and their degree of ripeness, post-harvest handling and manufacturing process, all of which is reflected in the intrinsic quality – the organoleptic attributes (Amirante, Clodoveo, Leone, Tamborrino, & Patel, 2012; Bedbabis, Trigui, Ben Ahmed, Clodoveo, Camposeo, Vivaldi, & Ben Rouina, 2015; Cabrera et al., 2015). Nevertheless, this quality gap does not appear to be reflected in the purchase behaviour of Spanish consumers of olive oil, given that ROO consumption comprises around 60% of the total (MAPAMA, 2017a). On the basis of economic theory, the price gap between products could be a part of the explanation (Shepherd, 1990); in Spain, however, the objective price gap between EVOO and ROO has been on average around €0.40 kg−1 since the 2007/2008 crop year (MAPAMA, 2017a).