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Finding Success Exporting Greek Olive Oil

Oct. 1, 2013
Marissa Tejada

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Being flu­ent in Greek, German, French, English and Dutch is big asset for Oliver Frick who acci­den­tally” found him­self in the Greek olive oil indus­try. The knowl­edge of sev­eral lan­guages and an under­stand­ing of var­i­ous cul­tures has enabled him to suc­cess­fully sell Greek olive oil in key European mar­kets like Germany.

Keys to Success

Frick, who is part Italian, German and Greek hails from Belgium, where he ran a glass fiber com­pos­ites com­pany. Five years ago he decided to leave that life behind and set­tle in Greece with his fam­ily. He wanted to try some­thing new pro­fes­sion­ally and even­tu­ally found him­self in the olive oil export­ing busi­ness, some­thing com­pletely out of his field. It didn’t mat­ter. He says his mul­ti­cul­tural back­ground and flu­ency in lan­guages helped him jump start his com­pany Olisi Export Mediterranean Products. Even with Greece’s eco­nomic cri­sis sur­round­ing him, Frick’s com­pany has grown 50 per­cent over the last year alone.

I started export­ing Greek olive oil for fun actu­ally. Then, one day some­thing clicked and I real­ized that there is in fact great poten­tial in this busi­ness. I under­stood that peo­ple like qual­ity. They are look­ing for tra­di­tional and hon­est prod­ucts and they will buy them if where they know where that prod­uct comes from. Greece has that com­bi­na­tion with olive oil.”

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Frick started in the deli mar­ket side of the busi­ness sup­ply­ing olive oil and olive prod­ucts directly to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Frick says he was sur­prised at first how many peo­ple loved extra vir­gin olive oil. Today he focuses on dis­tri­b­u­tion, pro­duc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing, as well as other gourmet prod­ucts from Greece.

The poten­tial to sell Greek prod­ucts is so high. The prod­ucts are just superb but unfor­tu­nately not many peo­ple here know mar­ket­ing or under­stand their poten­tial. For exam­ple, Greek pro­duc­ers sell cheap to Italy instead of doing it them­selves.”

Trends Continue

Frick is right. According to recent reports from the Greek Statistics Bureau (EL.STAT), a large per­cent­age of extra vir­gin olive oil con­tin­ues to be exported in bulk to Italy and the trend shows no signs of stop­ping. In the first quar­ter of 2013, bulk olive oil sales to Italy increased com­pared to last year. The total amounted to 55,947 tons or 76 per­cent of exports from Greece, worth 154 mil­lion euros. That’s more than a 50 per­cent increase from 2012 where the exports to Italy lev­eled off at 22, 740 tons dur­ing the same quar­ter.

Greece’s Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food, Maximus Charakopoulos, has also pointed out that only 20 per­cent of Greece’s total olive oil pro­duc­tion — and 25 per­cent of Greece’s oil exports — are stan­dard­ized. Meanwhile, the cor­re­spond­ing fig­ures for Italy are around 75 per­cent and 97 per­cent and for Spain at 50 per­cent and 55 per­cent.

The Right Approach

Frick con­tin­ues focus on European mar­kets like Germany, which is the 11th largest olive oil con­sump­tion mar­ket in the world. Greece, Italy and Spain are the top sell­ers to Germany which has increased its olive oil con­sump­tion six fold over the past two decades.

A lot of Greeks live in Germany — and Germans go to live in Greece — so there are pos­i­tive ties between the two coun­tries. Now, this is not always vis­i­ble due to the eco­nomic dif­fer­ences between the two coun­tries, but still I believe there is a nice con­nec­tion, and Germans con­tinue to appre­ci­ate and find value in prod­ucts like Greek extra-vir­gin olive oil.”

According to a report by the Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Greek con­sulate in Düsseldorf, Greek vir­gin olive oil exports to Germany increased as well in 2012 to about 6.2 thou­sand tons, worth about €24 mil­lion.

The mar­ket tells you what to sell,” says Frick who is also set­ting his sights on mar­kets like China and India. We dou­bled sales this year so there is demand but you have to have the right busi­ness men­tal­ity to meet that demand.”



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