Thursday, June 26, 2014

Per Capita Consumption in Australia Trends Down

The per capita consumption of olive oil in Australia is on the decline. The graph below shows a steady decline in consumption since a high in 2006. The drop from just under 2.33kg (2.53 litres) per person in 2006 to 1.76kg (to 1.91 litres) indicates a disturbing 25% decline in consumption per person.

Infusion Ban May Hit North American Olive Oil and Vinegar Boutiques

In 2011 the Olive Business newsletter asked the question ‘Should something be done about the labelling of infused ‘extra virgin’ olive oils or is it more convenient to live with this inconvenient truth?’
Now three years later the International Olive Council has turned its attention to resolve the issue.
The IOC ‘Trade Standard Applying to Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils’ clearly states that no food additives can be added to olive oil, with the exception of a small amount of alpha-tocopherol for refined olive oils. The essences, fruit, herbs and spices added as infusions or flavours are obviously food additives.
The push by the IOC to have member countries ban the descriptor ‘olive oil’ being used on any infused olive oils will have wide implications for the trade, especially in the boutique olive and vinegar stores in the USA and Canada. Flavoured oils are popular in these countries and make up a large proportion of the sales in the boutique stores.
It will be interesting to see how active those who have been at the forefront of exposing allegedly ‘fraudulent’ olive oils will be in policing this obvious breach of international trade standards. There are also implications for competitions such as the LA Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and the Australian Olive Association Competition which include classes for flavoured oils.
The ability to infuse olive oils with different tastes and aromas, and the inability to test the base olive oil for integrity, has enabled the use of non-compliant oils to be used in the infused oils.
If there isn’t an innovative new descriptor developed that is attractive to consumers, the decline in the sale of infused oils could increase the amount of olive oil in the market which does not comply with the extra virgin olive oil classification.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why is Worldwide Consumption of Olive Oil Declining?

Olive oil prices across all classifications are down and recent International Olive Council data shows that imports into major importing countries such as the USA, China and Australia are down. Even in Spain, the world’s largest producer, there are reports of reduced consumption of olive oil, with the exception of extra virgin olive oil which has shown a slight rise. The data provided generally measures the tonnage of olive oil traded, data of value of oil traded is scarce. It may well be that while tonnage is down, value may be up indicating the higher price and volume of extra virgin olive oil sold.

The downward trend in olive oil trade by tonnage can be for a number of reasons.


The perception of the value and integrity of olive oil among consumers has been affected by the publicity concerning allegedly fraudulent trade in olive oil publicised across all media. Confused, consumers are turning to other vegetable oils for their household needs.


The trend towards higher polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil, pushed as a measure of quality and shelf-life by some producer associations, is resulting in a product which tastes too bitter and ‘hot’ for most consumers.


The dual trends of increased production of extra virgin olive oil worldwide and the demand for higher prices from producers is setting prices too high for consumers with diminished disposable income.


All the above is leading to an oversupply of olive oil, especially the higher priced extra virgin olive oil. This in time should lead to a reduction in price to consumers and increased consumption. Producers may not be happy with this and need to adjust production costs – perhaps harvesting a little later to increase yield and produce a greater range of less robust extra virgin olive oil for consumer palates.

Olive Industry Needs a Mantra

The olive industry needs a mantra, spiritual, audible, visible and ever present in the thoughts of policy makers, producers and all those involved in the industry.

It should be invoked before any far reaching decision is made and before any campaign plan is developed and launched.

We suggest the following:

‘All olive oil is better than other vegetable oils and extra virgin olive oil is the best olive oil.’

Making this mantra central to our thoughts may bring the recognition that we must put the progress and public perception of olive products before any utterance which will discredit them.

In the past three years the public perception of olive oil has taken a battering from the self-interested campaigns in many producer and consumer regions which have sought to gain market prominence for a particular brand or region by discrediting other brands or regions. This undermining of consumer confidence is surely contributing to the decline in olive oil consumption in most importing countries, and even in some countries which are major producers.

Competition is necessary for progress, but we should never forget that we are not only competing with other olive oil products, but more importantly, we are also competing with other vegetable oils. Comparative trends show that the olive industry is losing the battle and it is time that industry leaders at all levels showed real leadership and pulled the industry together.

It is also incumbent on those of us involved in the olive industry to reinforce the positives, deal effectively with the negatives and never lose sight of the consumer, who is generally disinterested in the technical and competitive machinations of the industry and just wants an affordable, trustworthy, healthy and flavoursome olive oil.