Greek olive oil goes ‘Italian’
Greece is the second largest supplier to the Italian olive oil industry, according to an analysis of the Italian olive oil sector by the Embassy’s Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs from Greece in Milan.
In 2021, more than 75% of Greek olive oil exports went to Italy in bulk. This means that Greece supplied more than 111,000 tons of the 500,000 tons of olive oil Italy imported, accounting for nearly 22% of all Italy’s olive oil imports last year.
Italy’s largest supplier is Spain, with a share that reaches 61.53%. Most olive oil producers in Greece choose to export their product in bulk to Italy at quite low rates at prices even lower than those they export to other countries.
Italian companies standardize it and sell it at more than double the price. At the same time, there are no Greek brand olive oil products in Italian supermarkets. The value of olive oil exports from Greece to Italy amounted to 345.5 million euros in 2021, 16.33 percent more than in 2020.
Greek olive oil arrives in Italy in bulk
One of the main reasons producers choose bulk sales to Italy is that many Greeks produce olive oil themselves or have relatives who produce and provide the oil in bulk.
In addition, most cooperatives have as their central objective the sale of olive oil in bulk in Italy, according to market analysts. However, Greek producers and exporters do not get the added value of branded olive oil.
According to the report, Italian importers usually pay less for Greek olive oil than for that produced in Italy. According to historical data, until 2020, 1kg of imported Greek extra virgin olive oil cost Italian traders less than 3 euros compared to the price of Italian oil, which was around 3.70 euros.
Italians do mixes
Medit Hellas, a company based in Patras, Greece, that exports unpackaged olive oil to Italy, claims that Greek producers depend on Italian traders. The big producing and bottling companies in Italy make the decisions in the Greek olive oil sector to a large extent.
Italy bottles 800,000 to 900,000 tons of olive oil each season, with the country producing between 250,000 and 300,000 tons, they need much more olive oil, which they buy from other producing countries, including Greece and Spain, and always in bulk for blending.
Only 30 percent of bottled olive oil in Italy is exclusively of Italian origin
Only 30% of the olive oil bottled in Italy is actually Italian. This is because the widely accepted high quality of Italian olive oil is critical to its success in global markets.
In addition, the long-standing practice of Italian bottlers sourcing Greek olive oil and blending it has resulted in a form of blended olive oil. This blend is registered in the consciousness of consumers worldwide as a “Made in Italy” product.
This gives the world the false perception that Italian olive oil is of superior quality compared to neighboring Mediterranean countries. Branded Greek olive oil is absent from the Italian market.
Furthermore, bottle labels are not as informative and complete as on other food products, yoghurt and feta cheese for example. You cannot therefore know the exact country of production of the olive oil used in the Italian blends.
Measures for Greek exporters
The analysis proposed a set of measures that Greek producers and exporters should take to penetrate the Italian market with branded olive oils. These include constant participation in food fairs and olive oil competitions held in Italy.
Organize familiarization trips for Italian journalists and traders. Additionally, there are trips to mills and bottling facilities in Greece, and food bloggers and influencers from Italy are invited to tasting events.
However, considering the fact that Italy has created an image of itself as the world’s leading exporter of high-quality olive oil, this would be a huge risk for them. It could jeopardize Italy’s image as an exporter of high-quality olive oil. This could result in a decrease in exports.
Greek olive oil, the “liquid gold” of Greece
Greek olive oil is synonymous with Greek tradition, as well as a healthy diet and rich history. The “liquid gold” of the country, as Homer called it, is an irreplaceable nutritional component for all Greeks. In fact, the ancient Greeks consumed olive oil for a long and healthy life, as a food and as an essential treatment for skin and hair.
Today, olives and olive oil are staples in Greek households, where they are used in salads or as essential ingredients in much of Greek cuisine. Olive oil is an integral part of almost every popular Greek dish, from Greek salad to moussaka and tzatziki to spanakopita.
Over the centuries, it has become synonymous with Greece. The image of an olive tree or olive grove represents Greece as much as the sunset on the Aegean Sea. Today, many consider Greek olive oil to be the best in the world. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) comprises at least 80% of olive oil production in Greece. In Crete, it represents about 90%.
Rich and aromatic, Greek olive oil is produced only from green olives. Its color, aroma and flavor depend on the variety of olive, the location and the type of soil where it is grown. The environmental and climatic conditions in which the olive tree is grown and cultivated are also important.