Spain Surpasses Italy as Top Olive Oil Exporter to U.S.

After a lot of hard work, Spanish olive oil exports to the United States have surpassed Italian exports for the first semester. But it's too soon to call it an ongoing trend.

Sep. 22, 2016
By Alexis Kerner

Recent News

Ask a Spaniard about olive oil in the United States and they will be quick to tell you that the Italian olive oil on U.S. shelves just may be Spanish since much of their prod­uct is sold to Italians and bot­tled under Italian labels. They will also tell you how they admire Italians for their mar­ket­ing skills and believe that Spain needs to learn from them.

It has been a sort of thorn in their side. Spain is the world’s lead­ing pro­ducer of olive oil and out exports Italy on a global level. However, not until now have they been able to sur­pass their rivals in the United States.

This week, El Economista announced that Spain has finally reached this lofty, once seem­ingly impos­si­ble goal. According to the report, the United States imported 69,608 tons of Spanish olive oil dur­ing the first semes­ter — 56.7 per­cent more than the same time last year and sur­pass­ing the Italian total of 65,838 tons.
See Also: The Best Spanish Olive Oils
The United States is a revered mar­ket. All Spanish sem­i­nars on how to export olive oil are quick to note the con­tin­ual growth of the U.S. mar­ket and its large poten­tial. Data sup­ports the claim. Consumption in the U.S. has increased 250 per­cent in the last 25 years. And, accord­ing to a WorldCity Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data, the U.S. imports of olive oil have increased 8 per­cent dur­ing the first seven months of 2016 com­pared to the same period last year.

Spanish mar­ket­ing pre­sen­ta­tions point out that U.S. pro­duc­tion will never be able to cover the country´s con­sumer needs for the prod­uct. This is sup­ported by IOC data that esti­mates around 96 per­cent of olive oil con­sumed in the U.S. is imported.

Recognizing the prospects, the Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español has been car­ry­ing out tar­geted mar­ket­ing strate­gies for 7 years in the States. The pres­i­dent of the orga­ni­za­tion, Pedro Barato told El Economista, Our objec­tive is that the United States con­tin­ues to grow and we hope that in four or five years it will become our most impor­tant mar­ket.”

The orga­ni­za­tion has used olive oil tast­ing carts around inter­na­tional cities, cre­ated orig­i­nal TV adver­tise­ments, and have an exten­sive English web­site with recipes rang­ing from meat dishes to desserts. Now they tout the famous ten­nis player Rafael Nadal in their court.

Positive gains for the semes­ter should be cel­e­brated, how­ever Spain should not call it a win just yet. It is too soon to tell if this will be an ongo­ing trend of mar­ket dom­i­nance or if it is just a strong period.

Many smaller pro­duc­ers would make the coun­ter­ar­gu­ment that these num­bers do not show the increase for their extra vir­gin olive oil sales, and prices for the value of their prod­ucts still remain low com­pared to their Italian coun­ter­parts.



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