Slowly but surely over the past twenty years, olive oil in bulk containers is replacing imports of oil already packaged in bottles and tins, according to figures released today by the International Olive Council (IOC).
While no one exports more packaged olive oil to the U.S. than Italy, it is Spain, the world’s leading olive oil producer, that dominates the growing demand for bulk shipments with 28 percent of the market, followed distantly by Tunisia with 4 percent, Argentina and Italy, which supplies just 2 percent of bulk imports.
Bulk containers were defined by the IOC as those exceeding 18 kg (39.68 Lbs).
Over the past twenty years imports of bulk olive oil have increased at an average annual rate of 36.5 percent to account for most of the growth in imports. Packaged product shipments have increased at a modest 3.5 percent rate.
In the past five years, bulk imports have surged 43 percent, while packaged imports have seen only a one percent rise.
More imported olive oil is being bottled in the U.S. than ever before by importers and suppliers of private labeled products to mass market retailers and foodservice channels. Also contributing to higher bulk imports over the years is the advent of the use of olive oil in other products like snack foods and cosmetics.
Eryn Balch, executive vice president of the North American Olive Oil Association, the trade group that represents the largest American bottlers, called the increase in bulk olive oil shipments a “logical result” of the growth of olive oil usage in North America over the past twenty years. “For channels with high-volume sales, bulk shipments not only reduce freight costs, but also allow suppliers to be more flexible with packaging formats and product offerings to meet on-demand buyer requirements,” said Balch. “As category growth continues, we expect this trend will continue as well.”
As far as packaged olive oil goes, Italy has been losing some ground to Spain over the most recent five years, the IOC noted. Italian olive oil imports to the U.S. have slipped by 6 percent, while Spanish packaged products imports have gained 30 percent over the term to supply 12 percent of the market. Still, Spain has a long way to catch Italy’s 42-percent share of prepackaged olive oil.