A global trend toward healthy living and dietary habits seems to trump the chorus of denunciations about foul play and mafia domination of the olive oil industry. We simply can’t get enough of the stuff. Supermarkets continue to stock well-known brands under investigation for peddling adulterated olive oil while governments continue to allow the entry of tens of thousands of mislabeled bottles.
As new markets clamor for the product and existing markets demand ever more, the sector seems ripe for disruption as new and unexpected producers enter the arena.
At the moment, the world of olive oil is a confusing place, with numbers skyrocketing. Global consumption doubled in 2015 to a record 3,295,911 tons, an increase of 73% over the last 25 years. At the same time, cases of fraud and counterfeiting have multiplied to an estimated €16 billion in revenues last year - and that’s just in Italy.
Recent reports by Colderetti, one of the most important Italian olive oil organizations, finds those two realities interlinked.
First, consumption is being driven by evolving dietary habits in major markets including the U.S., and in new markets like Japan, Brasil and Russia.
In fact, it’s a dietary revolution as the health benefits of olive oil are increasingly broadcast around the world. Coldereti reports that Americans consumed 339,512 tons last year, a 250% increase over 25 years. Japanese consumed 66,000 tons – a stunning 1,400% over the same period.
Even in Europe, the love affair with olive oil has translated into remarkable numbers: Great Britain and Germany saw increases of 763% and 465% respectively, at about 65,000 tons each.
Unsurprisingly, at 640,000 tons, Italy still led the pack, followed by Spain at 540,133 tons. Of the 352,740 tons of olive oil exported by Italy, some 110,000 tons went to the U.S.
After all, Italy has an estimated 250 million olive trees, 533 varieties of olives and 43 “sources of origins” protected by the European Union. Colderetti says that total olive oil turnover reached a record €3 billion in 2015, more than half of it from exports.