Italians Have Changed Their Olive Oil Purchase Habits, Survey Finds

Despite rising prices and lower availability, 48 percent of Italian households continue to purchase as much olive oil as they did in previous years.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 1, 2024 16:55 UTC

According to a recent sur­vey, nearly one-half of Italian house­holds, 48 per­cent, reported that high extra vir­gin olive oil prices had not altered their pur­chas­ing or con­sump­tion habits. At the same time, slightly more than half said they had curbed their food spend­ing.

Conducted by NielsenIQ and the Italian Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea), the sur­vey also revealed that 17 per­cent of fam­i­lies have reduced their extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion, with an addi­tional 23 per­cent buy­ing the prod­uct less fre­quently than before.

The sur­vey sam­pled 3,000 house­holds deemed rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Italy’s 25.7 mil­lion fam­i­lies and found that 11 per­cent of respon­dents now opt for less expen­sive, lower-qual­ity alter­na­tives to extra vir­gin olive oil.

See Also:US Surpasses Spain as Second-Largest Olive Oil Consumer

Given the impact of infla­tion on fam­i­lies’ bud­gets and the effect of reduced pro­duc­tion on extra vir­gin olive oil prices, Ismea noted that Italian fam­i­lies are approach­ing gro­cery shop­ping much more care­fully than before.

Ninety per­cent of respon­dents pri­or­i­tize the price-qual­ity ratio in their food spend­ing habits, with 82 per­cent con­stantly seek­ing spe­cial offers and dis­counts.

According to offi­cial esti­mates, olive oil prices rose by 44 per­cent in Italy from 2022 to 2023. This sig­nif­i­cantly out­paced the per­ceived aver­age increase of 10.6 per­cent in over­all food prices.

When look­ing at extra vir­gin olive oils, pasta, fruits and veg­eta­bles, con­sump­tion is con­sid­ered not reducible, even in the pres­ence of sig­nif­i­cant price increases,” Ismea wrote.

The sur­vey also found that 47 per­cent of fam­i­lies pre­fer to pur­chase extra vir­gin olive oil and other food prod­ucts pro­duced in Italy.

Ismea fur­ther noted the sig­nif­i­cant role of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in shap­ing con­sumer pur­chase deci­sions for extra vir­gin olive oil.

Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) are European Union cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that rec­og­nize the product’s area of ori­gin, which has endowed it with cer­tain unique qual­i­ties. PDOs are applied to prod­ucts from small geo­graphic areas and require every step of pro­duc­tion to take place in the area. PGIs are applied to wider regions. Both are pro­tected from fraud and imi­ta­tion in the E.U. and cer­tain other coun­tries via trade agree­ments.

Fourteen per­cent of house­holds con­sider the pres­ence of PDO or PGI cer­ti­fi­ca­tions on extra vir­gin olive oil labels cru­cial, which is much higher than for any other food prod­uct, except for wine, which sits at 18 per­cent.

While the sec­tor is work­ing to engage cus­tomers and add value to the direct sales of extra vir­gin olive oil from olive mills and pro­duc­ers, 66 per­cent of con­sumers said they buy their food prod­ucts from large retail­ers, an eight-per­cent decrease com­pared to 2022.

The impact of cost­lier gro­ceries extends across var­i­ous sec­tors, with nearly one in four fam­i­lies cit­ing din­ing out less at restau­rants as a pri­mary or sec­ondary cost-sav­ing mea­sure.

Looking at the house­holds’ shop­ping cart, 62 per­cent of the fam­i­lies per­ceived that organic prod­uct prices rose more than con­ven­tional food prices. Seventy per­cent said they would buy non-organic prod­ucts to max­i­mize sav­ings.

According to Ismea, trends for 2024 show signs of recov­ery for food sales, as food infla­tion in February cooled to 3.8 per­cent from 5.8 per­cent reported in January. However, there is uncer­tainty regard­ing whether olive oil prices at ori­gin will fall.

The European Union sta­tis­tics agency, Eurostat, recently noted that European olive oil prices con­tin­ued to grow rapidly through­out 2023, reach­ing a 50 per­cent increase in January 2024 com­pared to January 2023.

In January 2024, all the E.U. coun­tries reported an increase in the annual infla­tion for olive oil,” Eurostat reported. The steep­est increases were reported in Portugal (69 per­cent), Greece (67 per­cent) and Spain (63 per­cent), with Italy at 45 per­cent.

Price and qual­ity are not the only vari­ables affect­ing con­sumer deci­sion-mak­ing. Overall, olive oil con­sump­tion in Italy has been fol­low­ing a steadily decreas­ing trend in recent years.

According to the International Olive Council (IOC) esti­mates, Italians con­sumed 478,000 tons of olive oils in the 2022/23 crop year, with 415,000 expected for 2023/2024.

Looking at the recent past, Italians con­sumed 660,000 tons of olive oils in 2010/2011, 598,100 five years later and 421,000 in 2020/2021.

The sharp decline occurred before the stag­ger­ing price increases of the last two years, pri­mar­ily due to the impact of the Mediterranean megadrought on pro­duc­tion.


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