Deoleo North America CEO Says Sustainability is Key to Growing Olive Oil Sector

Thierry Moyroud views Deoleo as guardians of the industry, prioritizing quality production and sustainable practices above all else.
(Photo: Deoleo)
By Daniel Dawson
Jun. 12, 2024 00:37 UTC

More than one-quar­ter of the extra vir­gin olive oil sold by Deoleo in 2023 was sourced from olive farm­ers and mills fol­low­ing sus­tain­able best prac­tices, accord­ing to the company’s first inte­grated sus­tain­abil­ity report.

Sustainability is part of our strat­egy and our pur­pose,” Thierry Moyroud, Deoleo North America’s chief exec­u­tive, told Olive Oil Times. Our goal is to reach more than 70 per­cent of all our oils being sus­tain­ably sourced in the future.”

I’m more focused on how we can bring the beauty of our cat­e­gory into every­day use in all American kitchens… (Olive oil is) a prod­uct for the masses, not a prod­uct for the very few.- Thierry Moyroud, CEO, Deoleo North America

The report, audited by Deloitte, con­cluded that 27.7 per­cent of the company’s extra vir­gin olive oil comes from inde­pen­dently cer­ti­fied third-party farm­ers and millers fol­low­ing sus­tain­able best prac­tices.

The report also found that the world’s largest seller of branded olive oil, which includes the Bertolli and Carapelli brands, has elim­i­nated the gen­der pay gap at the com­pany and increased the num­ber of bot­tles made from 100 per­cent recy­cled plas­tic by 7.4 per­cent.

See Also:Future Lies in Specialized, Sustainable Production, Deoleo CEO Says

Moyroud said the report had been in the works since the com­pany under­took its first mate­ri­al­ity assess­ment in 2020. It was pub­lished one year before the European Union said it would imple­ment manda­tory envi­ron­men­tal, social and gov­er­nance (ESG) report­ing stan­dards.

It is our com­mit­ment to the cat­e­gory to be its stew­ards,” he said. If we are to do that seri­ously, we think sus­tain­abil­ity should be at the cen­ter of every­thing we do; it is a key piece of what should be expected from our indus­try.”


Thierry Moyroud

For Deoleo, sus­tain­abil­ity includes min­i­mal use of phy­tosan­i­tary prod­ucts in the olive groves, effi­cient use of water resources, pro­mot­ing energy effi­ciency across the farm­ing and milling processes, man­ag­ing the soil as a liv­ing sys­tem, pro­mot­ing bio­di­ver­sity in the groves and min­i­miz­ing waste dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process.

It’s a broad and holis­tic approach to iden­ti­fy­ing the para­me­ters influ­enc­ing the pro­duc­tion of olive oil and the crit­i­cal ones where we need to improve over time if we want to pro­mote healthy and sus­tain­able olive oil pro­duc­tion,” Moyroud said.

While the com­pany con­tin­ues to lean into its sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, Moyroud empha­sized that qual­ity comes first.

Like many in the sec­tor, the last two years of poor har­vests and ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs have been quite chal­leng­ing for the Córdoba-based multi­na­tional, which sources extra vir­gin olive oil from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Tunisia, Greece and Argentina.

What we are look­ing for is qual­ity oil, first and fore­most,” Moyroud said. During some years, we can com­bine qual­ity with sus­tain­able sources; in other years, we have to pri­or­i­tize qual­ity.”

Another con­se­quence of con­sec­u­tive poor har­vests in Spain and across the Mediterranean basin has been record-high prices at ori­gin.

According to Infaoliva, extra vir­gin olive oil prices in Spain sit at €7.80 per kilo­gram at the time of writ­ing, well below the mid-January record high of €8.988 but still 27 per­cent above the same time last year.

If the last two years have taught me any­thing in this indus­try, it is to be very hum­ble in our pre­dic­tions and spec­u­la­tion because nobody expected what hap­pened last year,” Moyroud said. The mar­ket sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues to be uncer­tain and com­plex.”

While prices fell sub­stan­tially at the begin­ning of April, drop­ping to €7.00 per kilo­gram, with the news that Spain’s har­vest exceeded ini­tial expec­ta­tions, they have con­tin­ued to climb.

Even so, the country’s main olive-grow­ing region looks promis­ing, with a sig­nif­i­cant fruit set and an absence of the high tem­per­a­tures that neg­a­tively impacted the two pre­vi­ous har­vests in Andalusia.


The first infor­ma­tion we have about the new har­vest is pos­i­tive,” Moyroud con­firmed. The fruit blos­som­ing is good. The water reserves are above aver­age for this time of the year. These fac­tors sup­port a pro­jec­tion that the 2024/25 crop year will return to nor­mal lev­els.”

In the five years before the his­tor­i­cally poor 2022/23 crop year, Spain pro­duced an aver­age of 1.4 mil­lion tons of olive oil annu­ally. Close sec­tor observers believe this pro­duc­tion level could result in prices drop­ping to between €3 and €4 per kilo­gram.

While Moyroud does not see the need to spec­u­late about future prices, he thinks the past two years have been a wake-up call for the sec­tor about the impacts of cli­mate change in the Mediterranean basin, which is respon­si­ble for more than 95 per­cent of global olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Similarly to Jaime Lillo, the International Olive Council’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Moyroud believes the sec­tor’s future involves sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion in non­tra­di­tional olive-grow­ing regions.

“[The two bad har­vests and record high prices at ori­gin are] a sig­nal that the sec­tor needs a pro­found trans­for­ma­tion,” he said. It’s a good sig­nal being sent to the mar­ket that we need to rethink how we oper­ate as an indus­try.”

Moyroud said Deoleo is work­ing to expand its global approach to sourc­ing olive oil. He pointed to Argentina — already the largest pro­ducer out­side of the Mediterranean basin — as a coun­try with immense poten­tial to expand high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion. Quality can­not be linked to any spe­cific ori­gin,” he added.

Moyroud said part of Deoleo’s suc­cess in a wide range of non-tra­di­tional olive oil mar­kets is iden­ti­fy­ing taste pro­files and con­sis­tently deliv­er­ing extra vir­gin olive oil that meets these pro­files, which often includes blend­ing oils from dif­fer­ent sources.

For instance, in the U.S., peo­ple like much milder olive oil,” Moyroud said. So, we define a taste pro­file for Bertolli in the U.S., which is not the taste pro­file for Bertolli in Germany.”

To reach this taste pro­file, we some­times use dif­fer­ent blends to achieve the same result. That’s where we are strong,” he added. To do that, it does­n’t mat­ter where the olive oil comes from, but it mat­ters what qual­ity olive oil you can find.”

While ensur­ing a con­sis­tent and sus­tain­ably pro­duced sup­ply of extra vir­gin olive oil is one of Deoleo’s most press­ing chal­lenges, the other is increas­ing con­sump­tion in places such as the United States, which over­took Spain last year as the world’s sec­ond-largest con­sumer.

In his six years at the helm of Deoleo North America, Moyroud said the most sig­nif­i­cant change he has seen is the growth of the retail mar­ket in the U.S. since the onset of the Covid-19 pan­demic in early 2020.

At the peak of lock­downs, an esti­mated 94 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion was in a juris­dic­tion with manda­tory stay-at-home orders in the U.S. Many were cook­ing at home and needed more cook­ing fat, includ­ing olive oil.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, olive oil imports rose from 339,200 tons in 2019 to 402,600 tons in 2020, and this trend has con­tin­ued. The U.S. imported an aver­age of 322,150 tons annu­ally from 2016 to 2019. In the four years since the pan­demic started, this fig­ure has risen to 387,575 tons.

See Also:U.S. Sees Significant Growth in Organic Olive Oil Sales

We retained a sig­nif­i­cant part of this increase,” Moyroud said. The mar­ket has gone down since 2020, undoubt­edly because peo­ple returned to restau­rants. But at the end of the day, we have seen more pen­e­tra­tion than before.”

That is not the case in many geo­gra­phies,” he added. In many places, the mar­ket has returned to what it was before the pan­demic.”

Moyroud believes the sec­tor must cap­i­tal­ize on the pan­demic’s cook­ing-at-home expe­ri­ence and expand olive oil’s share in the total edi­ble oil cat­e­gory, which cur­rently is about three per­cent.

I’m more look­ing towards a place where olive oil will be cen­ter stage in the kitchen,” Moyroud said. I don’t want to lean too much on the very high-end part of the olive oil cat­e­gory where we tend to look like the wine cat­e­gory. That’s a bit of an elit­ist approach.”

I’m more focused on how we can bring the beauty of our cat­e­gory into every­day use in all American kitchens, which is not the case in many house­holds today,” he added. It’s a prod­uct for the masses, not a prod­uct for the very few.”

Returning to the sig­nif­i­cance of Deolo’s sus­tain­abil­ity report, Moyroud said the sec­tor must focus on edu­cat­ing the pub­lic about olive oil’s envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits and health ben­e­fits com­pared to all other edi­ble fats.

Today’s con­ver­sa­tions are about processed foods and how to eat less of them,” he said. Tell me some­thing less processed than olive oil. It’s very hard to find one, and we some­times for­get that.”

To that end, Moyroud plans to con­tinue pro­mot­ing olive oil as a healthy and con­sci­en­tious alter­na­tive to other edi­ble fats. He believes this will con­tinue expand­ing Deoleo’s house­hold pen­e­tra­tion in the U.S., dri­ving con­sump­tion.

Very sim­ply, we are at 55 per­cent pen­e­tra­tion, so we still have 45 per­cent of house­holds to reach,” he con­cluded.


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