Olive oil is Greece’s fourth most important export, with sales abroad totaling 524.5 million euros in 2018. However, Greece keeps losing market shares to its main competitors, Italy and Spain, as well as rising players in the international market, such as Tunisia.
A recent report by the Economic and Commercial Affairs Office of the Greek Consulate in Toronto points to some of the reasons.
First of all, Greece still lags in terms of the promotion and packaging of the product, despite the appearance of new, dynamic producers.
In Canada, in large part due to the presence of a sizable Greek community, much of the exports are purchased in 5-liter cans, many unbranded. Also, a fair amount are directly delivered to households, at no extra cost, with the olive oil paid for in advance.
And even the part that reaches supermarkets is disadvantaged, in the sense that it is sold cheaply: A 700-milliliter bottle of olive oil sells for 15.75 Canadian dollars, or 10.60 euros, on average, while bottles containing the same amount of Italian olive oil sells for 22.15 Canadian dollars, or 14.90 euros.
In the period 2013-16, Greece was the second biggest olive oil exporter to Canada, behind Italy. It has now dropped to fourth place, behind Spain and Tunisia.
Spain has invested in low prices, due to its large production, but also in organic olive oil, which is very much in demand in Canada. Tunisia, also once known for its bulk production, has placed an emphasis on bottling and packaging and on the fact that 95 percent of its brand-name oil is organic.
“Countries such as Tunisia are gaining ground in exports because they carefully build their image as producers, using the main advantages that Greece has and combining them with tourism promotion: a Mediterranean country producing olive oil since ancient times, olive grove landscapes, the use of olive oil in the traditional cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine and its [health] benefits,” says the Greek Consulate’s report.
Greece is eyeing rapidly developing markets, such as India and South Korea, as destinations for its olive oil. If it continues its present export methods, it risks missing yet another opportunity.