The European market potential for olive oil
In the long term, the European market for olive oil is expected to show stable growth of 3%–5% over the next years. This growth is mostly driven by the growing popularity of extra virgin olive oil, which is known for being a ‘good fat’, and the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a lower risk of bladder and prostate cancers. The best opportunities for developing country suppliers can be found in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as Poland and Sweden.
Contents of this page
1. Product description
Olive oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea). Olive oil can be produced by physical and mechanical means, or by chemical means. Most olive oils are produced by physical and mechanical means, through operations such as grinding, pressing, centrifugation and physical filtration. Olive oil can also be produced by chemical means, with the use of solvents, but those methods negatively affect quality. Depending on the production method, the composition and sensory characteristics of olive oil can be classified in several categories:
- Virgin olive oil – obtained solely by mechanical or other physical means. Virgin olive oils include several quality categories, such as extra virgin olive oil (with <0.8% free acidity), virgin olive oil (with 2%– 3.3% free acidity) and ordinary olive oil (with >3.3% free acidity). Olive oil that has more than 3.3% free acidity (also called ‘lampante’) is not fit for human consumption and must be refined before culinary use.
- Refined olive oil – obtained by refining lampante olive oil.
- Olive oil – blend of virgin and refined olive oils.
- Pomace oil – obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents or other treatments. After refining, pomace oil can be directly consumed or mixed with virgin olive oil to improve quality.
The above listed categorisation is based on International Olive Council (IOC) standards, but it has been simplified; the official classification uses more criteria. The European Union marketing standard is slightly different, defining ‘lampante’ as each olive oil with more than 2% acidity, excluding the ordinary olive oil category. Olive oil with lower quality, such as crude pomace or lampante, can be also used for technical purposes, for example, as a fuel. The market entry part of this study provides more specifics about quality categories.
Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil. According to the Food Information and Control Agency (AICA), Spain produced 1.3 million tonnes of olive oil in 2021, accounting for 42% of global olive oil production. Italy is the second-largest olive oil producer in the world, with an estimated 315 thousand tonnes in 2021. Other large olive oil producers are Tunisia (240 thousand tonnes), Turkey (228 thousand tonnes), Greece (225 thousand tonnes) and Morocco (200 thousand tonnes). These six countries, namely Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Turkey, Greece and Morocco, are responsible for 81% of global olive oil production.
Spain is also the largest olive oil exporter, with a share of 49% in 2021, followed by Greece (13%), Italy (11%), Tunisia (11%) and Portugal (10%).
The countries in the Mediterranean region, where olive trees naturally grow, produce the largest volumes of olive oil. Countries, such as Argentina, Australia, California, Chile, Peru, and South Africa, are not in the Mediterranean region but also produce olive oil.
Aside from primary processing countries, olive oil is blended and bottled in many countries around the world. Quality olive oil is produced using healthy olives through mechanical crushing in safe conditions. Time and temperature are critical quality factors in the process from harvesting to bottling. The perception that unfiltered oil is better than filtered is unfounded.
Producing one litre of olive oil requires four to five kilos of olives on average. Specific varieties, such as Taggiasca, require using more olives per kilo of produced oil. Processing methods also significantly affect olive oil yield.
As a reference for the remainder of this report, 1 kg of olive oil is equivalent to approximately 1.12 L in volume.
This study covers general information regarding the market of olive oil in Europe, which may interest producers in developing countries. When ‘olive oil’ is referred to in this survey, it involves the selection of products in Table 1. Export opportunities for extra virgin olive oil specifically are provided in more detail.
Table 1: Products in the olive oil product group
Combined Nomenclature Number
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil
Olive oil (refined or not)
Virgin lampante olive oil
Refined and ready to use olive pomace oil
Crude olive pomace oil
2. What makes Europe an interesting market for olive oil?
Europe is the largest importing region of olive oil in the world. In 2021, European imports of olive oil accounted for 86% of the world’s total value of olive oil imports. European imports of olive oil recorded a slight decrease of 4% compared to 2020. Most of the olive oil traded in Europe is produced in the region, mainly from Spain and Italy.
Olive oil prices in Europe are predicted to be affected by higher demand for the product as a substitute for other vegetable oils, the prices of which are skyrocketing and the availability of which is limited due to the war in Ukraine.
Between 2016 and 2020, European imports of olive oil increased by an average annual rate of almost 7%. However, olive oil import volumes from Europe decreased by 10% in 2021. The 2020-2021 crop year was heavily affected by COVID-19, hindering olive oil commercialisation, storage volumes, price and consumption. Imports of all olive oil types experienced a setback in 2021, especially virgin lampante olive oil, which decreased by 24% compared to 2020, followed by virgin olive oil, with an 11% drop.
Among the various types of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil remained the biggest product group, accounting for 62% of all imported volumes in 2021, followed by virgin olive oil at 10% and virgin lampante olive oil at 9%.
European countries import most of their olive oil from other European countries (intra-European trade). In 2021, 13% of Europe’s imports of olive oil came from developing countries. The biggest share of intra-European trade consists of bulk olive oil blended by the largest olive oil companies before bottling. Significant volumes of bulk olive oil are not really traded but only moved across borders by these companies for processing. For example, the leading European olive oil producer has facilities in both Spain and Italy, which exchange the company’s olive oil among them during processing.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the type of olive oil most imported from developing countries. In 2021, European EVOO imports accounted for 58% of all olive oil imported from developing countries, followed by virgin lampante olive oil (23%). Between 2017 and 2021, the import share of EVOO from developing countries remained relatively stable, but that of crude pomace oil fluctuated. It peaked in 2017 at 17% and bottomed out in 2020 at 9%. Crude pomace oil is three times cheaper on average than virgin olive oils. Therefore, developing countries should look for opportunities in exporting EVOO to Europe.
In the past five years, imports of EVOO grew to all European countries, with the exception of Cyprus. The largest increases were in Italy, Spain and France, all three of which import and further process (blend, bottle, etc.) imported EVOO. Among non-producing countries, the largest increases in EVOO imports were in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.
European olive oil consumption was estimated at 1.46 million tonnes in 2021, which is approximately half of the total world consumption. Italy and Spain are the largest consumers of olive oil in the EU, with annual consumptions of around 500,000 tonnes each, while Greece has the biggest EU per capita consumption, with around 12 kg per person per year.
Per capita consumption of olive oil in EU countries excluding Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece is anticipated to rise about 4% annually, but remain relatively low (1.3 kg/person by 2025). At the same time, average per capita consumption in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece is expected to decline from 9.3 kg/person in 2021 to 8.9 kg/person in 2025.
Due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, stored sunflower seeds in Ukraine cannot be processed into oil. Tensions and military action in agricultural areas in Ukraine have disrupted sunflower farming. Given a scenario where olive oil becomes a substitute for other vegetable oils, EU experts estimate that olive oil consumption in the European Union could rise by 7% in 2022 compared to 2021.
In the coming years, the European food service sector is expected to be the leading market for olive oil producers, followed by retail. Retail also plays an important role in enabling market players to stay close to their target customers.
Consumption of extra virgin olive oil is forecasted to grow the most, due to EVOO’s positive image regarding health benefits as well as its rising utilisation in pharmaceuticals and the cosmetics industry. Per capita consumption of refined and olive-pomace oils will most likely decrease.
The figure above represents apparent consumption, meaning the difference between production and imports minus exports. Data also includes industrial consumption, which contributes to a significant share of imports. Production volumes vary per year, creating a wrong perception that demand constantly fluctuates. In reality, European demand for olive oil is relatively stable in some countries and increasing in others.
3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for olive oil exporters?
The top three olive oil importing countries in Europe — Italy, Spain and Portugal — are also the leading producers. Producing countries do not provide a lot of opportunities for retail sales of premium and branded imported olive oil. These countries instead import bulk olive oil from different destinations. Imported bulk oil is often further blended with domestically produced olive oil before bottling.
Exporters from developing countries may find opportunities in non-olive oil-producing countries. Domestic consumption of olive oil in these countries is believed to be growing, thanks mainly to awareness campaigns and the incorporation of olive oil into modern lifestyles. France, the fourth-biggest olive oil importer in Europe, imports around 96% of its olive oil. Its consumption increased fivefold in less than 20 years. Germany, the fifth-biggest olive oil importer in Europe, is a net importer of olive oil and the largest importer of Greek olive oil.
Note: France, Belgium and the Netherlands are listed as non-producing countries above for convenience. In fact, these countries do produce olive oil, but not enough to meet their own internal market needs.
France: small local production and appreciation of quality
In 2021, France was the fourth-largest importer of olive oil in Europe, after Italy, Spain and Portugal. French imports of all types of olive oils reached 138.5 thousand tonnes in 2021, down from 144.8 thousand tonnes in 2020. French olive oil import value reached €482 million in 2021, making up 10% of total European olive oil imports in volume and 12% in value. 96% of olive oil sales in France are imports.
In 2021, France imported 64% of its olive oil from Spain, followed by Italy (23%) and Tunisia (6%). Tunisia is by far the leading developing country supplying to France, with a strong offer of organic olive oil. Morocco is also gaining a share of the French market. French imports from Morocco increased strongly from 291 tonnes in 2017 to 1.3 thousand tonnes in 2021. Other emerging olive oil suppliers to France include Algeria, Turkey, Palestine and Lebanon, but their combined share is smaller than 0.5%.
EVOO makes up 61% of French olive oil imports, followed by other types of edible virgin olive oils (32%). French imports of olive pomace oil are insignificant at less than 1%.
France also produces olive oil in its southern regions, namely in Provence, Occitania, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and Corsica. Despite a favourable climate in these regions, France cannot compete with foreign olive oil producers. Consumption of domestic olive oil accounts for 4% of France’s total consumption and is mostly purchased directly from producers. French olive oils are more expensive than many imports mainly because many of the varieties grown in and native to France are not produced on an industrial scale, but on small family farms. One special category of olive oil in France is black fruity oil, which is produced from matured and fermented olives.
Farmers in the country are trying to adapt to new trends, especially with organic farming, and to differentiate themselves through protected designations of origin. Currently, seven geographical areas have a Protected Designation of Origin and one has an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. This means they are recognised for their olive oil and/or olives and that a historic production core exists in the region. Fourteen Protected Designations of Origin for olive products are recognised.
The main regions of olive oil consumption in France are located in the South-East (production areas) but also in the Paris and Lyon regions and, to a lesser extent, in the South-West. The northern regions are traditionally under-consuming, but olive oil consumption is gradually spreading.
Olive oil consumption in France is driven by the popularity of the Mediterranean diet and the healthy living trend. The retail share of organic olive oil sales in France is estimated at more than 10%. Consumption of organic olive oil is constantly increasing in France, thanks to lower prices when compared to other organic foods. Several private labels are sold as organic (mostly of Tunisian origin) and the price gap between organic and conventional oil is narrowing over time.
Approximately 60% of the olive oil market in France is sold to retail channels, and 40% to industry and food service. The leading retail brand of olive oil in France is Puget (owned by Lesieur, part of the Avril Group). Avril Group also has a subsidiary in Morocco: Lesieur Cristal. Other French brands include Carapelli, Tramier and Monini. Large volumes of olive oil are also sold as private labels (house brands of retail chains), such as Carrefour, Leclerc and Auchan.
Most of the olive oil imported by France is transported in bulk packaging, then blended and bottled by the leading olive oil companies. However, some of the leading brands are imported as bottled, mainly from Italy (such as Carapelli, Bertolli and Monini). The share of premium olive oil brands imported as bottled in France is small but increasing.
Figure 6: Puget olive oil (France’s leading brand)
Source: Photo by kiliweb per Open Food Facts, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Figure 7: Black fruity (Le fruité noir) olive oil
Source: Photo by kiliweb per Open Food Facts, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
- To learn more about the French olive oil industry and market, visit the website of France Olive, the French olive interprofessional association (formerly AFIDOL, in French).
Germany: leading market for organic olive oil in Europe
Germany is a net importer of olive oil. Total imports of olive oil to Germany increased noticeably from 68.2 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 85.3 thousand tonnes in 2021. In 2021, Germany reported a 2% decrease in olive oil import volume and a 5% increase in import value, bringing its market demand to €345 million (up from €330 million in the previous year).
The structure of German olive oil imports is changing. The share of EVOO imports to the German market increased from 75% in 2017 to 82% in 2021, while the share of virgin olive oil and other oils has decreased. This means German consumption of high-quality olive oils is increasing. Of all olive oil imported to Germany, an 82% share was EVOO, followed by ordinary olive oil (9%), other virgin olive oil (5%) and other oils (4%).
Italy is the leading supplier of olive oil to Germany (53% share in 2021), followed by Spain (25%) and Greece (14%). Among the leading olive oil suppliers to Germany, Greece has grown fastest, almost doubling its exports of olive oil from 6.4 thousand tonnes to almost 12 thousand tonnes since 2017. Developing countries account for only 1% of Germany’s olive oil imports, with Turkey as the leading supplier, followed by Syria and Palestine. Imports from Syria are increasing at the fastest rate, from 28 tonnes in 2017 to 116 tonnes in 2021.
Most of the olive oil sold in Germany is sold under a private label, such as Primadonna (by discounter chain Lidl), El Cantinelle and Cucina (by Aldi Süd), Casa Morando (by Aldi Nord), Aro (by Metro Cash & Carry), REWE Feine Welt and ja! (by REWE), and Edeka and Gut&Günstig (by Edeka). Most private label oils are blends from different origins. Independent brands include Bertolli and Carapelli (Italian), Mazola (Spanish origin by Peter Kölln), Minerva, Minos and Jordan (Greek), Ybarra (Spanish) and La Española (by Feinkost Dittmann).
As the largest market in Europe for organic products, Germany provides opportunities for suppliers of organic olive oil. A large share of organic olive oils in Germany are sold under private label brands of specialised organic retailers, such as Bio Markt, Alnatura, Basic, Bio Company, ebl-Naturkost and Super Biomarkt. Leading retail chains also have their own organic private labels. New suppliers should be aware that Germany is a very price-competitive market and many organic brands do not have significantly higher prices compared to brands of conventional olive oil.
Figure 8: Primadonna extra olive oil (private label of discounter Lidl)
Source: Photo by kiliweb with additional modifications by sevenlives per Open Food Facts, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Figure 9: ‘Bio ZENTRALE’ organic olive oil
Source: Photo by kakao per Open Food Facts, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
- To find more information about the German olive oil market, contact the Information Office Olive Oil in Germany.
Belgium: consumption increase in 2021
Belgium is a growing importer of olive oil. In all olive oil categories combined, Belgium imported 22.7 thousand tonnes, or €81.4 million, in 2021. EVOO made up 63% of all Belgian olive oil imports, followed by virgin olive oil (16%), ordinary (not virgin) olive oil (17%), olive pomace oil (2%) and virgin lampante oil (1%). EVOO is the fastest-growing category, increasing from 7.7 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 14.4 thousand tonnes in 2021, giving it an average annual growth rate of 17%.
In 2021, most of Belgium's olive oil imports came from Spain (48%), followed by Italy (23%), Tunisia (10%), France (8%) and Greece (5%). Among the leading suppliers of olive oil to Belgium, Tunisia’s exports are the fastest-growing. Tunisia has more than tripled its exports of olive oil to Belgium, from 730 tonnes in 2017 to 2,364 tonnes in 2021. Other developing countries supplying olive oil to Belgium include Morocco (319 tonnes), Turkey (171 tonnes) and Syria (96 tonnes).
A large share of olive oil in Belgium is sold under private labels by retail chains, such as Colruyt (Boni), Delhaize (Delhaize and 365), Carrefour (Carrefour), Aldi, Lidl and Marko. Independents brands include Bertolli, Monini, Carapelli, Filippo Berio, Borges and many others. Sales of organic olive oil in Belgium have been constantly growing. Belgium is both a large consumer market and a re-exporter of olive oil. In 2020, Belgium exported 5.7 thousand tonnes of olive oil, mainly to the Netherlands.
- For information about the Belgian edible oils market and industry, contact Lipids and Proteins Belgium (Liprobel), an association that represents producers of vegetable oils, proteins and refined animal fats.
Poland: import value increase in 2021
Poland is a growing importer of olive oil. In 2021, Poland imported €54.7 million in olive oil, representing an increase of 18% compared to 2020 and an average increase of 8% annually since 2017. By volume, this was equivalent to 16.3 thousand tonnes of olive oil in 2021 (up from 10.2 thousand tonnes in 2017). In 2021, EVOO made up 57% of Polish olive oil imports, followed by other oils and blends (13%), olive pomace oil (12%), virgin lampante oil (8%), virgin olive oil (5%) and other oils (6%). Olive pomace oil and virgin lampante olive oil are the fastest-growing categories.
In 2021, the leading olive oil suppliers to Poland were Italy (33%), Spain (31%), Portugal (16%) and Greece (12%). Together, these four countries comprised 92% of Poland’s olive oil imports. Poland does not import any olive oil from developing countries.
Polish importers of olive oil include Contimax, Dorapol, Greek Trade, Doppio S.C., Limpol and Italmex. A large share of olive oil in Poland is sold via retail chains, including those in the Eurocash Group (ABC, Delikatesy Centrum, Duży Ben, Eurocash Cash&Carry, Groszek and Lewiatan), the Jeronimo Martins Group’s Biedronka chain as well as Schwartz Group’s Lidl and Kaufland. Other retail chains include Społem, Auchan, Dino, Metro Group, Carrefour, Żabka and Netto.
- To learn more about the Polish olive oil market, contact the Polish association of oil producers.
The Netherlands: increased consumption in 2021
Dutch imports of olive oil fluctuated over the past five years, reaching 27 thousand tonnes and €100 million in 2021. This amounts to an average annual growth of 4.8% in volume and 5% in value between 2017 and 2021. Almost 4.3 thousand tonnes were re-exported to other destinations, primarily Belgium, the United States and Germany. In 2021, EVOO accounted for 48% of all olive oil imported to the Netherlands, followed by ordinary (not virgin) oil (35%), other virgin oil (11%) and other oils (6%).
In 2021, the Netherlands imported 57% of its olive oil from Spain, followed by Italy (23%), Belgium (5%) and Germany and Greece (4% each). Imports from developing countries to the Netherlands account for 4% of total olive oil imports, with Morocco as the leading supplier (580 tonnes in 2021), followed by Palestine (382 tonnes of ordinary olive oil in 2021) and Turkey (161 tonnes). Other emerging suppliers include Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Thailand, but all with very small volumes.
Dutch consumers are traditionally heavy users of butter and sunflower oil. However, this consumption pattern is changing, especially due to the severe shortage of sunflower oil caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, consumption of olive oil is growing in the Netherlands, showing a 25% increase in consumption volume in 2021 (12 thousand tonnes). In spite of Dutch consumers being price sensitive, consumption of high-priced oils, such as premium, infused and organic, is growing.
More than 60% of all olive oil sold in the Netherlands is sold under private labels. The leading retail chains that sell olive oil under their own private labels in the Netherlands include Albert Heijn (AH), Aldi (LaVilla), Jumbo (Jumbo) and Lidl (Primadonna). Sales of independent brands of olive oil in the Netherlands are mainly dominated by Italian names, such as Bertolli, Monini and Carapelli.
- To learn more about the Dutch olive oil market, contact the Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry (MVO).
Sweden: potential new market
Sweden’s olive oil imports fluctuated over the past five years, reaching 12.6 thousand tonnes in 2021, valued at €42.3 million. This was an average annual increase of 1% in value and 7% in volume. In 2021, EVOO accounted for 67% of all olive oil imported to Sweden, followed by virgin olive oil (19%) and other (non-virgin) oils (13%).
In 2021, Sweden imported 53% of its olive oil from Italy, followed by Spain (30%) and Greece (11%). Imports from developing countries to Sweden account for 2% of its total olive oil imports, with Turkey as the leading supplier (79 tonnes in 2021), followed by Syria (70 tonnes) and Morocco (61 tonnes). Other emerging suppliers include Lebanon and Palestine, but with very small volumes.
The three biggest supermarket chains in Sweden are Coop Sverige AB, ICA Sverige AB and Axfood. Axfood is known for offering consumers a range of private labels, especially in the packaged food segment, including organic and fair-trade items. In addition to supermarkets and ordinary food stores, Swedish people also purchase olive oil from deli shops and web shops. Restaurant distribution channels, namely MartinServera, Arvid Nordquist and Menigo, are also important.
- Contact Swedish customs to learn more about import requirements.
4. Which trends offer opportunities on the European olive oil market?
The growing consumer interest in olive oil in Europe has three main driving forces combined: the growing popularity of the Mediterranean diet, the increasing awareness of olive oil’s health benefits and the quality of certain types of olive oil. Promotion of single-origin premium olive oil, as well as sustainable and ethical production methods are favourable aspects for emerging suppliers. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine may be beneficial for olive oil imports.
On the other hand, the declining price of both conventional and organic olive oils makes up the main threat for suppliers willing to position their products in the mainstream segment.
To find out more about general trends, read our study about Trends in the European Processed Fruit and Vegetables Market.
Healthier eating trend and popularity of Mediterranean food
Olive oil, especially EVOO, enjoys a good reputation among consumers in Europe. Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. Several studies indicate that a Mediterranean diet can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, overall cancer incidence, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and early death. According to a World Health Organisation report, several European countries have already included the Mediterranean diet as a part of their official national dietary guidelines.
In addition to the perceived health benefits of consuming olive oil, the rising popularity of food dishes that use olive oil also help drive consumption. These dishes often come from southern European cuisines, such as Italian, Spanish and French, but also the emerging popularity of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. Mediterranean dishes and olive oil use are also promoted by many celebrity chefs, as well as TV cooking and travel shows across Europe.
Several European Commission projects also promote the Mediterranean diet and olive oil consumption, including MedDiet, the Mediterranean Diet Virtual Museum and MedEat Research. Other organisations promoting Mediterranean food include the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, in Barcelona, and the International Foundation of Mediterranean Diet, in London.
Several national olive oil trade associations constantly invest in the promotion of olive oil in Europe and abroad. such as the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional, which launched the Olive Oil World Tour campaign in 2018. Similarly, the Italian Consortium of Olive Oil Producers (UNAPROL) launched The Perfect Food project to promote consumption of European olive oil.
According to its 2019–2030 agricultural outlook report, the European Union expects olive oil consumption to grow by 400,000 tonnes until 2030. Behind this expected growth are the changing eating habits of Europe’s population and the younger generations’ concern with health and the environment.
New Olive Oil Flavours
The popularity of olive oils infused with aromatic ingredients, such as chilli and garlic, is on the rise. Some consumers make flavoured olive oils at home, but due to convenience, olive oil companies have expanded their product ranges with flavoured olive oils. According to MINTEL, garlic and chilies are now established flavours, but new ones are appearing on the market, such as lime, truffle, pesto, curry, rosemary, basil, and smoked oil.
To support innovation and quality of infused olive oils, many major competitions, such as the EVO International Olive Oil Contest, Monte Carlo Masters International Competition and Berlin GOOA, have introduced new category awards for the best infused olive oils. Depending on flavour types, infused olive oils are segmented into three categories: herbs and spices flavoured, fruit flavoured, and others.
Popular infused olive oil companies are Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises (grapefruit/bergamot and lemon/oregano infused olive oils), Pellas Nature (Greek herbs), Sakellaropoulos Organic Farming, Gemstone (ginger, lime and basil), Efthimios Christakis (strong smoke), Ariston (lime, curry, chilli, pesto), Delicious Crete (smoked), and Food Cross (white truffle).
Consumption of organic olive oil is increasing
According to several industry sources, sales of organic olive oils in Europe are constantly growing. France and Germany are the largest markets for organic olive oil, accounting for approximately half of the total European consumption. Retail sales are roughly estimated to be more than €5 billion. Organic olive oil production is likely to increase in the short term, as to the area planted in European producing countries grows as well. Olives cover 1/3 of the permanent organic crop area in Europe.
Growing production and offer of organic olive oil, especially from Tunisia, has forced organic olive oil prices down. The price difference between conventional and organic olive oils has shrunk over the last few years. Many European retail chains now sell organic olive oil for lower prices than some premium conventional olive oils, often under private labels. Do note that the price of olive oils as well as other edible oils is higher at the moment due to the supply shortage of sunflower oil from Ukraine.
Independent organic olive oil producers are increasingly exhibiting at leading European trade fairs. The world’s leading trade fair for organic food, Biofach, has introduced a competition for organic olive oil, the Olive Oil Award Biofach. In general, the number of organic food events in Europe is growing. Other organic food events with increasing participation of organic olive oil producers include Natural & Organic Products Europe, Organic Food Iberia, Free From Functional Food Expo, Natexpo and Nordic Organic Food Fair.
Higher quality olive oils entering the market
The current market share of premium quality organic olive oils in Europe is small but increasing. Many independent brands of premium olive oil are coming up on the market. Until recently, premium olive oils were mainly sold in specialised shops, or directly from producers. But now, some leading retailers are introducing high-quality olive oil too. In bigger European cities, retail chains have special corners with special or fine foods, where premium olive oils of independent brands are sold.
The number of single-origin olive oil introductions by retail chains is growing. A growing number of wholesalers are also distributing oils connected to specific production regions, or even from single estates. Another indication of the market ‘premiumisation’ is the appearance of monovarietal oils, such as Monini, Nocellara, Frantoio and Coratina.
Celebrity chefs and olive oil experts influence consumers to select better quality olive oils. Olive oil tasting courses are relatively new, but they are increasingly popular among European consumers. Specialised olive oil shops also educate consumers about the different types and qualities of olive oil through in-house tasting and information about production and origins. Specialised olive oil retailers are constantly looking out for new origins in Europe, such as Croatia, Slovenia, and Malta, or not, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) are distinctive European quality schemes that are guaranteed and protected by the European Union. The main distinguishing feature between the two schemes is the place where the products are obtained, prepared and packaged. Europe currently has a combined total of 132 PDO and PGI extra virgin olive oils. Italy has the largest number of registered PDO olive oils (49), followed by Spain (32) and Greece (31).
- Promote the various applications and nutritional properties of olive oil. However, avoid health and nutritional claims that are not backed by scientific evidence. Nevertheless, a good idea is to test your olive oil for its content of polyphenols, which are specifically connected to the health benefits of olive oil.
- Check the websites of European trade shows and exhibitions to discover the newest trends. The most important trade fair in Europe for olive oil trends and trade are SIAL, Anuga, Alimentaria, TuttoFood and BioFach.
- If you produce organic olive oil, consider participating in specific organic food and olive oil events and competitions, such as Biol (Italy), Biofach (Germany), Natural & Organic Products Europe (United Kingdom), Organic Food Iberia (Spain), Sana (Italy), Natexpo (France) and Nordic Organic Food Fair (Sweden). It is also important to have a distributor. Promoting olive oil without being able to distribute it in the target market may harm sales.
- Participate in international competitions if you aim to place your olive oil in the premium segment. You can find the list of award-winning olive oils from international competitions at the EVOO World Ranking. When choosing a competition, select those that have respected, reliable and independent judges.
- Consider placing a label on your olive oil showing where the olive oil was tested and by what panel. This may provide a strong competitive advantage because it is not frequently done.
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