Olive Oil is Becoming One of Asia’s Most Popular Ingredients

Consumption and production are on the rise in Asia's two largest economies. Consumers still prefer imported brands to domestic ones.
Shenzhen, China
By Lisa Anderson
Feb. 16, 2021 06:29 UTC

According to mar­ket research firm Mordor Intelligence, the Asia-Pacific olive oil mar­ket is esti­mated to grow at an annual com­pounded rate of 4.2 per­cent from 2020 to 2025.

This puts the Mediterranean diet sta­ple on pace to become one of the region’s most pop­u­lar ingre­di­ents.

Extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion in China is increas­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant pace, par­tic­u­larly in big cities and in a seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion aged 25 to 30 that has trav­eled abroad.- Pablo Canamasas , agro­nomic engi­neer, Longnan Xiangyu Olive Development Company

However, evi­dence sug­gests that local con­sumers still pre­fer imported olive oils, despite the continent’s pro­duc­ers mak­ing enor­mous strides to improve their prod­uct and win awards in inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

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Pablo Canamasas is an Argentinian agro­nomic engi­neer who pro­duced Longnan Xiangyu Olive Development Company’s robust Picholine, which earned a Gold award at the 2017 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

He told Bloomberg News that locally-pro­duced olive oils in China are not rec­og­nized at home as they are abroad.

Crazy as it may sound, the Chinese pub­lic has the same view we out­siders have on Chinese prod­ucts: that they are of poor qual­ity,” he said.

In June 2019, the Direct China Chamber of Commerce (DCCC) reported that Chinese con­sumers val­ued the qual­ity and high food safety stan­dards asso­ci­ated with imported oils more than those pro­duced domes­ti­cally.

At the time of the study, China imported 90 per­cent of its olive oil from Spain, and con­sumers said they were more than will­ing to pay the pre­mium for the imported prod­uct.

The International Olive Council esti­mates that olive oil con­sump­tion in China in the 2020/21 crop year will reach 66,000 tons, up from 57,500 tons in 2018/19. Of that total, China imported 58,500 tons and pro­duced 7,500 tons.

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Extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion in China is increas­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant pace,” Canamasas said. Particularly in big cities and in a seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion aged 25 to 30 that has trav­eled abroad and is more exposed to the Mediterranean diet or has heard of it.”

According to the DCCC, con­sumers’ pref­er­ence for imported oils has been par­tially fueled by lower olive oil prices in Europe and tar­iff reduc­tions for Italian olive oil imports.

The cham­ber high­lighted that Italy, Greece and Tunisia have adapted quickly to evolv­ing Chinese eat­ing habits, includ­ing local con­sumers’ increas­ing aware­ness of healthy diets and evolv­ing cook­ing trends.

Along with these fac­tors, China’s grow­ing mid­dle class also was cred­ited for the grow­ing trend.

According to Bloomberg News, the increas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of olive oil in Asia has also spurred pro­duc­ers in the region to make more olive oil.

Japan’s olive oil exports rose to 276 tons in 2019, increas­ing 209 per­cent com­pared to 2018 and 545 per­cent com­pared to 2014.

Japanese pro­duc­ers also enjoyed a record year at the 2020 NYIOOC, earn­ing eight acco­lades, includ­ing four Gold awards.


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