Olive Oil Consumption Falling Among Spain's Youth

A new report released by a Spanish university indicated that a number of factors are contributing to the decrease in local consumption and predicted that it may not recover.

By Daniel Dawson
Jan. 29, 2019 07:43 UTC

A report recently released by a Madrid busi­ness school has found that olive oil con­sump­tion among young peo­ple in Spain con­tin­ues to fall.

The report, which was pub­lished by the EAE Business School, attrib­uted this con­tin­u­ing decrease to changes in habits among young peo­ple as well as prices that have not come back down to pre-finan­cial cri­sis lev­els.

Now they cook less and rely on prepar­ing more pre­cooked meals. This moves young peo­ple away from prepar­ing typ­i­cal recipes of the Mediterranean diet in which olive oil is a sta­ple.- Manuel Moñino, mem­ber of the Spanish Foundation of Dietitians and Nutritionists

Back in 2008 a liter of extra vir­gin olive oil cost €2.47 ($3.63). That price has since risen to an aver­age of about €4.02 ($4.62) in 2017, accord­ing to econ­o­mist Mariano Íñigo, one of the study’s authors.

Íñigo said that this rise in price directly cor­re­lates with the decrease in olive oil con­sump­tion, which fell from 425 mil­lion liters in 2008 to 342 mil­lion liters in 2017.

See Also:Olive Oil Consumption

The data [we col­lected] show a con­tin­ued decrease of the vol­ume of olive oil con­sumed in house­holds in Spain dur­ing the past 10 years,” Íñigo wrote in the report.

In the mean­time, con­sump­tion has increased in wealth­ier north­ern European coun­tries, East Asia and the United States, all fac­tors which Íñigo points out have con­tributed to the increase in extra vir­gin olive oil’s value around the world.

This means that in spite of Spain’s eco­nomic recov­ery since the finan­cial cri­sis, extra vir­gin olive oil prices have not come back down, which Manuel Parras, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor at the University of Jaén, believes is serv­ing as a deter­rent for young peo­ple to pur­chase olive oil.

We Spaniards per­ceive it as a sta­ple food, that’s why we are sen­si­tive to vari­a­tions in price; if it increases, we con­sume less,” Parras said.

Íñigo wrote in the EAE report that nei­ther he nor any­one with whom he spoke expects the prices to come back down either. Instead, he said that he expects increas­ing global demand to con­tinue dri­ving prices up, even in Spain’s domes­tic mar­ket.

Taking into con­sid­er­a­tion that the cur­rent level of olive oil prices are not expected to expe­ri­ence any drop-off, more likely, on the con­trary [they will increase],” he said.

This phe­nom­e­non has led to a shift in buy­ing habits among young Spaniards, many of whom Gregorio Varela, a pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion at Madrid’s San Pablo University, said now take the price of food into con­sid­er­a­tion more so than its healthy attrib­utes.

This has led to a decrease in con­sump­tion of many com­po­nents of the Mediterranean diet and a move toward con­sum­ing more pack­aged and processed foods. The for­mer being more expen­sive than the lat­ter.

In turn, Manuel Moñino, a mem­ber of the Spanish Foundation of Dietitians and Nutritionists, believes that this men­tal­ity, com­bined with a lag­ging recov­ery of wages from the finan­cial cri­sis, has led to an over­all shift in cul­ture of young Spanish con­sumers.

Now they cook less and rely on prepar­ing more pre­cooked meals,” Moñino told El País. This moves young peo­ple away from prepar­ing typ­i­cal recipes of the Mediterranean diet in which olive oil is a sta­ple.”

Data col­lected by Spain’s Ministry of Health bears out this claim as well. According to a recent sur­vey admin­is­tered by the Ministry, Spaniards between the ages of 17 and 39 reported con­sum­ing an aver­age of 0.49 ounces of olive oil per day and 14 per­cent of respon­dents reported using none at all.

That is com­pared to respon­dents aged 40 to 64 who reported con­sum­ing 0.60 ounces of olive oil per day on aver­age, with fewer than 10 per­cent report­ing no olive oil con­sump­tion at all.


Recent scan­dals in the news about falsely labeled extra vir­gin olive oil have also taken their toll on young Spaniard’s over­all per­cep­tion of the prod­uct.

The Ministry of Agriculture in Andalusia, Spain’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ing region, recently sur­veyed Spaniards and found that young peo­ple are twice as likely to be dis­sat­is­fied with the olive oil that they pur­chase as are peo­ple over the age of 50.

The EAE’s report con­cluded that for now this decreas­ing con­sump­tion would not ham­per the sector’s eco­nomic out­look. Íñigo cited increas­ing con­sump­tion in new mar­kets as well as poor har­vests through­out the olive oil world as rea­sons Spanish exports would be strong and pro­duc­ers should not worry yet.

However, he also con­cluded that this same set of cir­cum­stances would con­tinue to drive the prices of olive oil up and may con­tinue Spain’s decreas­ing con­sump­tion trend.

Estimates for the cur­rent cam­paign point out that as prac­ti­cally only our coun­try is going to expe­ri­ence an increase in its pro­duc­tion, it is fore­see­able Spanish exports also will grow,” Íñigo wrote. This will cause a great price strength, so it does not seem pos­si­ble that a recov­ery of inter­nal con­sump­tion will occur.”


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