An Olive Oil ‘Battleground’

An article yesterday in the Telegraph, and echoed elsewhere, tried to rile up readers with the battle cry headline “Eurozone olive oil firms face threat from America.”

“The growing olive oil market in the US is poised to be a ‘battleground’ between the historic European producers and their new challengers from California,” the article warns.

The story relies on a report from a bank in California’s Central Valley that finances the local agricultural industry.

The bank’s report went out on a limb predicting California producers would “likely” gain 5 percent of the U.S. market share in the next 5 years — as long as the U.S. establishes “stricter quality labeling standards and increases consumer education on quality,” that is.

It’s no surprise that a California bank would jump in the ring as American importers and producers duke it out over a proposed marketing order. What’s unsettling is how fast its press release was spun into more misleading headline hype.

California’s own experts have predicted the domestic industry might some day be able to supply 5 percent of the country’s needs – maximum. Getting there in five years is unthinkable.

The Telegraph warns the European producers “especially Spain” look “vulnerable.” It wouldn’t seem so: Spain has doubled its olive oil exports in the last ten years and sales to the U.S. are nothing less than soaring.

Not to mention that big European companies are setting up shop in many of the New World markets. Even California Olive Ranch — by far the biggest producer in the U.S. — is owned by Spanish investors.

Even if American producers manage to capture 5 percent of the market in five years, the market will be 30 percent bigger overall. Hardly a doomsday scenario for Spain. Throw in booming new markets like Brazil and giant prospects like India and China, and suddenly Deoleo stock starts looking pretty good.

New World producers won’t win market share by painting European olive oils as inferior or with calls for nationalism.

Include the Rabobank report and Telegraph article in the ever-growing list of sensational hype and misdirected efforts.

Back to Top

Curtis Cord

Executive Editor, Olive Oil Times | New Yorkoliveoilvoice

In 2010, Curtis Cord turned a personal blog, where he compared the tastes of olive oils encountered along his travels, into Olive Oil Times, now the most-read publication about olive oil. In 2013, Cord organized the first annual New York International Olive Oil Competition and, in 2014 he launched the International Olive Oil School. Cord is regularly cited in media for his unique perspectives as an impartial insider in the olive oil world.

More articles on: , , ,

This article was last updated October 11, 2014 - 6:31 PM (GMT-5)

  • JDK

    The American’s strategy is shortsighted.

    • OliveChirper

       The IOC’s strategy is shortsighted: mosty but not entirely unintentionally, they’re creating a race to the bottom and facilitating adulteration.  Their low threshold for Extra Virgin status and refusal to adopt new tests that better detect rancid and adulterated oils is to the temporary advantage of their large bottler members, at the expense of their high-quality small producers and is ultimately eroding the premium for EVOO upon which even their mass-market bottlers rely. I’m not clear on whether there’s even a future for NAOOA if real quality standards were drafted and enforced, but IOC is eating everyone’s seed corn.

  • oliveoilguy

    While the press release was issued by one of Rabobanks subsidiaries in Fresno CA, the actual report was not. It was issued by Rabobank International and copyrighted by Rabobank International Utrecht Branch, and (according to the document itself) was “one of a series of publications undertaken by the global department of food and agribusiness research and advisory”. Rabobank International is one of the top 30 largest financial groups in the world with a focus on agribusiness marketing and lending. So the suggestion that the report was written by someone in some small central valley bank branch is off the mark.

  • Darro

    Regardless of market share by what country, the olive oil consumer might look to quality for flavor and healthfulness and also carbon footprint.  Another, deeper look, might be to the olive oil’s stability and content.  Mechanized commercial agriculture and oil extraction optimized for volume go to the big face of the story here, but how about keeping on the table product quality as well as market share.