World Olive Oil Market
Mediterranean countries account for 98% of world olive oil production. The total world supply determines to a great extent what world prices will be, whether or not individual producing countries have large or small crops.
North American Market
The US and Canada constitute the largest consuming market, outside the producing countries, but only import about 8% of the world supply.
Types of Olive Oil Sold in North America
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree by mechanical means. It is immediately edible and has a maximum acidity of 1%. Its fruitiness may vary in intensity. Experts judge it to have perfect flavor characteristics.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree by mechanical means. It is immediately edible and has a maximum acidity of 2%. Its fruitiness may vary in intensity. Experts judge it to have good flavor characteristics.
OLIVE OIL is blend of refined olive oil and varying amounts of extra virgin or virgin olive oil to give it a characteristic olive flavor, color, and aroma.
“LIGHT” OLIVE OIL is a blend of refined oil and sufficient extra virgin or virgin olive oil to give it a light color, taste and aroma.
OLIVE POMACE OIL is a blend of refined olive pomace oil and varying amounts of extra virgin or virgin olive oil. A small amount of oil remains in the pomace or residue that is left after olives have been pressed. It can be recovered by solvent extraction, which is the method that is generally used to produce seed oils.
Every company in the olive oil trade must have quality assurance and testing procedures to make sure that the product it buys or sells is in compliance with the international standards for olive oil. As suppliers establish their names in the market, it is not necessary that every lot purchased from them be tested, but some testing is always called for to make sure that performance is consistent. Exporting and importing countries test olive oil, some in a very aggressive manner – testing every lot – and others on a random basis. The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) regularly collects and arranges for the testing of olive oils from supermarket shelves in the US and Canada to make sure that they conform to the international standards. It also collects and tests olive oils from food service distributors, club stores, and other outlets handling olive oils sold in the food service trade. Even bulk olive oils are collected by the NAOOA for testing.
Price As Indicator of Quality
Buyers in North America are well aware of the pricing for popular brands in the marketplace. Price differentials may be due to the way brands are brought to market, the quality of the oils, and the timing of promotions. Still, there are levels at which olive oils must be sold in order to cover the import cost, the cost of distribution and normal overhead. These levels can vary within a certain range. When product is being sold consistently at less than fair market value it should be tested frequently. The NAOOA does not judge what constitutes a legitimate or fair price for olive oil. If a buyer is suspicious about an oil because of its price or appearance, he may contact the NAOOA for guidance on how it should be tested.