A Rise in Sustainability Marketing in the Olive Oil Sector

Companies are investing more in sustainability marketing, and consumers are paying attention.
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 13, 2023 13:42 UTC

One thing that is never in short sup­ply for the edi­tor of any pub­li­ca­tion is the steady flow of press releases from com­pa­nies or enti­ties seek­ing to pro­mote a new prod­uct or ini­tia­tive.

In recent years, the num­ber of press releases sent to Olive Oil Times tout­ing the sus­tain­able prac­tices or sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives of olive oil pro­duc­ers of all sizes appears to have increased steadily.

Companies that do bet­ter on sus­tain­abil­ity man­age­ment, gen­er­ally, just do bet­ter on man­age­ment. It’s always been a really good proxy for that.- Andrew Winston, sus­tain­able busi­ness strate­gist

Every sec­tor’s talk­ing about sus­tain­abil­ity more,” Andrew Winston, a sus­tain­able busi­ness strate­gist and advi­sor, told Olive Oil Times.

In a 2021 arti­cle pub­lished in Harvard Business Review, Winston argued that no busi­ness lead­ers seri­ously doubt that sus­tain­abil­ity should be on the agenda.”

See Also:Europe Cracks Down on Eco-Labels in Effort to Curb Greenwashing

Winston told Olive Oil Times that from his expe­ri­ence, this has been espe­cially true in the con­sumer prod­ucts and food indus­tries.

Younger con­sumers want to know where it [the prod­uct] came from, who made it and were those peo­ple paid a liv­ing wage,” he said.

While there is no quan­ti­ta­tive data about sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing in the olive oil sec­tor, a range of sur­veys and stud­ies show that busi­nesses of all types are focussing more on sus­tain­abil­ity, and con­sumers are respond­ing.

According to a July 2022 sur­vey of 1,000 com­pa­nies in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain and France, nearly one-third of respon­dents said they already spend more on sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing cam­paigns than nor­mal ones.

Additionally, 74 per­cent said they would increase spend­ing on sus­tain­able mar­ket­ing in the next few years. Only 1.3 per­cent said their spend­ing would likely decrease in that period.

The sur­vey also asked why the com­pa­nies invested in sus­tain­able mar­ket­ing strate­gies. Nearly 21 per­cent of respon­dents said they did so to improve their brand image, while 18 per­cent said they hoped to increase sales.

Only 14 per­cent of respon­dents said they were invest­ing in sus­tain­able mar­ket­ing strate­gies because they believed with was the right thing to do.

Evidence of increas­ing spend­ing on sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing comes from a sep­a­rate con­sumer sur­vey from Simon-Kucher & Partners, a con­sul­tancy. It found that 71 per­cent of respon­dents had expe­ri­enced mod­est or sig­nif­i­cant changes in their pur­chas­ing behav­ior in the past five years toward more sus­tain­able options.

Marketing offi­cials at some of the world’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ers and sell­ers appear to have seen the research, tak­ing advan­tage of the many sus­tain­abil­ity bona fides of olive oil pro­duc­tion.

In May, Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil bot­tler, launched part of its new sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, intro­duc­ing sus­tain­ably sourced” and orig­i­nal sus­tain­able” labels to its flag­ship brands, Bertolli and Carapelli.

According to the com­pany, bot­tles of olive oil bear­ing these labels come from the groves and mills fol­low­ing the company’s sus­tain­abil­ity pro­to­col and are bot­tled in recy­cled plas­tic.

Sustainability has been top of mind at Deoleo for a while. In a 2021 inter­view with Olive Oil Times, the company’s chief exec­u­tive, Ignacio Silva repeat­edly empha­sized that ensur­ing the indus­try’s sus­tain­able sup­ply of olives and olive oil is the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge.


Winston, who advises a range of food and con­sumer goods com­pa­nies, said imple­ment­ing sus­tain­abil­ity strate­gies is good for busi­ness and worth ini­tial invest­ments.

It cre­ates value for busi­nesses,” he said. The ben­e­fit to busi­nesses of even just track­ing [sus­tain­abil­ity] means they know their sup­ply chain bet­ter. They under­stand it bet­ter. They can make bet­ter choices.”

Companies that do bet­ter on sus­tain­abil­ity man­age­ment, gen­er­ally, just do bet­ter on man­age­ment,” Winston added. It’s always been a really good proxy for that.”

Along with the poten­tial to improve the bot­tom line in the long run, Winston said that sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing serves as a vehi­cle for com­pa­nies to tell a story to the con­sumer about who they are and what they value.

Pompeian, one of the world’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ers, is doing just that. The com­pany said it recently became the first olive oil pro­ducer to receive SCS Global Service’s sus­tain­ably grown cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for its olive groves in California.

We’ve been around since 1906, and we’ve been ded­i­cated to qual­ity and act­ing as a respon­si­ble olive pro­ducer, man­u­fac­turer and dis­trib­u­tor of olive oil,” Mouna Aissaoui, Pompeian’s exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief oper­at­ing offi­cer, told Olive Oil Times.

This was just a log­i­cal step for us as we con­tinue our mis­sion that we want oth­ers to eat, live and feel bet­ter,” she added.

According to Paula Lopes, Pompeian’s vice pres­i­dent of sus­tain­abil­ity, qual­ity and research and devel­op­ment, the com­pany imple­mented prac­tices to improve bio­di­ver­sity on its olive farms by pro­mot­ing autochtho­nous plant cover and pro­tect­ing pol­li­na­tors.

We are the first [SCS Global Services] cer­ti­fied com­pany in the United States, and cur­rently, we are the only one cer­ti­fied world­wide,” she told Olive Oil Times. Our plan is 50 per­cent of all of our farm­ers will become cer­ti­fied by 2026, and this fig­ure will reach 100 per­cent by 2030.”

Aissaoui acknowl­edged that Pompeian had noticed an increas­ing demand for sus­tain­ably-pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil but said the ini­tia­tive had more to do with the company’s val­ues and stake­hold­ers.

Pompeian is 100 per­cent farmer-owned, and Aissaoui said the company’s cen­tury-old mis­sion is to pro­tect the places where it farms olives and pro­duces olive oil.

According to a meta-analy­sis of 42 arti­cles pub­lished in peer-reviewed jour­nals study­ing the effects of sus­tain­abil­ity labels on con­sumer behav­ior, olive oil labels focus­ing on eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity resulted in the high­est will­ing­ness to pay.

Consumers are will­ing to pay pre­mium prices for most of those labels, which con­tribute to farm­ers’ income guar­an­tee, mar­ket remu­ner­a­tion, pro­duc­ers’ min­i­miza­tion of risks and posi­tion with respect to the mar­ket,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers also found that organic’ labels had the high­est added value impact of the envi­ron­men­tally-focused sus­tain­abil­ity labels.

Most con­sumers, inde­pen­dently of their loca­tions, val­orize olive oil car­ry­ing an organic label and are will­ing to pay more for this attribute,” they wrote.

While Winston said that there is lit­tle evi­dence that sug­gests con­sumers are will­ing to pay more for sus­tain­able prod­ucts, he believes busi­nesses try to com­mu­ni­cate what they are doing to improve their sus­tain­abil­ity because they think it mat­ters to their con­sumers and stake­hold­ers.

If they’re doing this and send­ing these press releases, they believe it mat­ters to some­body,” he said.

Aissaoui said Pompeian pro­motes sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture based on the sector’s need to mit­i­gate the impacts of cli­mate change, which are becom­ing increas­ingly preva­lent across the olive-grow­ing world.

It [sus­tain­abil­ity] has to become just the way that we work, and although we rec­og­nize it’s going be a very long-term project, we also rec­og­nize the ben­e­fit of work­ing this way and cre­at­ing a new mar­ket seg­ment [for sus­tain­ably-pro­duced olive oil],” she said.


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