`Looking to Sell Olive Oil in Japan? Use Small Bottles - Olive Oil Times

Looking to Sell Olive Oil in Japan? Use Small Bottles

Sep. 17, 2012
Julie Butler

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Sell your oil in small bot­tles and stress the health ben­e­fits. Those are among tips from Spain’s Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX) for com­pa­nies seek­ing a slice of the expand­ing olive oil mar­ket in Japan, the world’s third biggest econ­omy.

In a new report, it says that in the last decade, Japan’s olive oil imports grew 41 per­cent, peak­ing in 2010 with more than 41,000 tons and mak­ing the coun­try num­ber 14 in the world rank­ing of olive oil importers. In 2011, its vir­gin olive oil imports had a value of 11.3 bil­lion yen ($144 mil­lion). Yet olive oil is so far just 2 per­cent of Japan’s veg­etable oil sales.

Italy leads mar­ket

The Olive Oil Market in Japan” says that Italy paved the way for wine and olive oil con­sump­tion in Japan with its pro­mo­tion of Italian cui­sine. The Japanese now asso­ciate olive oil with Italian food and favor Made in Italy” labels.

Sales leader Italy accounts for half of total vol­ume, Spain fol­lows with 40 per­cent and Turkey has rapidly over­taken Greece to nab third place.

ICEX says Spain and Turkey com­pete closely on price — with respec­tive aver­age whole­sale prices for vir­gin olive oil of about 350 and 365 yen per liter in 2011 — while Italy is the most expen­sive at 514 yen.

Consumer pref­er­ences in Japan

Japanese con­sumers cur­rently use olive oil at home about once or twice a week and mainly for pasta or sal­ads, though they pre­fer the huge range of pre-made dress­ings for the lat­ter and cheaper, seed oils for fry­ing.

Although two thirds of the olive oil Japan imported in 2011 was vir­gin, most con­sumers so far don’t know or care much about the dif­fer­ence between that and refined oil.

Mild-tast­ing Riviera olive oil, a mix of extra vir­gin and refined olive oil, is the most pop­u­lar there, ICEX reports.

Prices and bot­tle sizes

Given they don’t use olive oil daily and their kitchens are small, the Japanese pre­fer 250ml bot­tles.

They gen­er­ally buy their olive oil in super­mar­kets or small local stores where retail prices range from 300‑1800 yen ($4 – 23).

The cheap­est olive oils are those from Japanese food giants who bot­tle imported olive oils under their own label and ben­e­fit from economies of scale and well-estab­lished dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels. The prices of these bot­tles are nev­er­the­less usu­ally more than €8 ($10.50) a liter” ICEX says.

Health ben­e­fits key

Belief it is ben­e­fi­cial to health is the bedrock of olive oil demand in Japan.

The great­est chance of suc­cess for olive oil hinges on it being a healthy prod­uct” that can com­pete directly with other oils and healthy food prod­ucts on the Japanese mar­ket.”

While dif­fi­cult to obtain, the offi­cial JAS cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for organic prod­ucts is worth pur­su­ing, ICEX advises exporters.


Its report includes a link to max­i­mum chem­i­cal residues allowed in food in Japan and says that olive oil com­pa­nies are fre­quently asked about pes­ti­cide lev­els in their prod­ucts.

Though mainly con­sumed as a food, cos­met­ics and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals account for a tenth of Japan’s olive oil use and demand in the daily skin care seg­ment has increased sig­nif­i­cantly.

Internet sales grow­ing

Success in enter­ing the Japanese mar­ket depends all the time more on the choice of dis­trib­u­tor there, but some importers have elim­i­nated the mid­dle man and achieved suc­cess with online sales, a chan­nel expected to expand.

ICEX urges real­is­tic expec­ta­tions for all exporters: Despite the growth in olive oil sales, Japan should be seen as a long-term mar­ket because this prod­uct will not form part of the daily diet but tend to become one of reg­u­lar con­sump­tion.”

The Olive Oil Times reported in April that the International Olive Council was fund­ing a cam­paign in Japan for 2012 – 13 to pro­mote con­sump­tion of olive oil and table olives with a focus on health ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly regard­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, age­ing and dia­betes.


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