BLOC (BLue OCean) markets in the virgin olive oil sector
Significant opportunities for European companies from the presence of several accelerating markets
Published by Marcello Antonioni. .Marketselection Export markets Foreign markets Uncertainty International marketing Foreign market analysis
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One of the most dynamic sectors of the agri-food industry in recent years in terms of world trade is that of virgin olive oil: in the last five years (2017-2022) world trade of this sector grew overall by 36 percent at constant prices, compared with an average growth dynamic of the packaged food and beverage trade of 20.2 percent.
Certainly the growing diffusion of a food culture inspired by the Mediterranean diet and the nutraceutical benefits of virgin olive oil has supported the development of international trade in the increasingly globalized sector. Considering a minimum threshold of imports measured at constant prices in 2010 equal to 20 million euros, if at the beginning of the last decade there were 19 markets above this threshold, in 2022 there were six more (25); similarly, considering a minimum threshold of 10 million euros (constant 2010 prices), last year there were a total of 33 markets above this threshold (compared to 26 at the beginning of last decade).
In euro values - also thanks to the significant price increases1 - world trade in virgin olive oil last year exceeded 7.7 billion euros (+27.8 percent compared to 2021), new absolute maximum point for the sector.
The growth of world trade in the sector sees the presence of various BLue OCean (BLOC) markets in an acceleration phase, especially on non-European markets
The growth performance of world virgin olive oil trade originates in several accelerating markets in its own imports.
These markets, indicated as BLOC markets (BLue OCean) and particularly worthy of attention for European companies in the sector, can be traced back to European destinations, but above all non-European ones.
European BLOC Markets
Among the markets undergoing acceleration in the field of European destinations, the following main BLOC markets (BLue OCean) of the sector are highlighted:
- Poland: in pre-final 2022, Polish imports of the sector reached the record figure of 57.2 million euros (becoming the 10th European market by value of sectoral imports), with growth in last five years by more than 80 percentage points in values at constant prices and doubling its values in current euros, thanks to a growing awareness of Polish consumers about the health benefits of olive oil and the growing availability of high quality products . On this market, in the last five years, Spanish sales have been able to do better (+142% at constant prices) than Italian ones (+58%), overtaking them in first place in the ranking of partner countries;
- Croatia: this is a market that in 2022 reached a value close to 22 million euros, with an overall increase in the last five years of over 66 percentage points in values at constant prices, positioning itself in 16th position in the European ranking of the main importing countries in the sector. On this market, the competition between the Italian and Spanish offers is very strong, with the Italian performance over the last five years (+84.7% at constant prices) "winning" compared to the Spanish one (+70.9%).
Virgin Olive Oil: main European BLOC markets
(trends at constant prices)
Source: ExportPlanning-Ulisse Datamart
Among the markets undergoing acceleration in the field of extra-European destinations, the following main BLOC markets (BLue OCean) in the sector should be noted:
- South Korea: this is a market that arrived last year, with 133.5 million euros of imports, in 6th absolute position in the list of non-European markets in the sector. After an initial phase of growth at the beginning of the century (culminating in a maximum point in 2006), the South Korean market had shown a retreat. Only in the most recent period has the market definitively "taken off"2, with an overall growth in the last five years of over 176 percentage points in values at constant prices. The analysis of the competition on the market sees Spain largely the leader, with a 2022 share of 76 per cent, ahead of Italy (2022 share equal to 15.3%);
- Mexico: this is a market that in 2022 reached a value close to 22 million euros, with an overall increase over the last five years of over 66 percentage points in values at constant prices, positioning itself in 16th position in the European ranking of the main importing countries in the sector. On this market, the competition between the Italian and Spanish offers is very strong, with the Italian performance over the last five years (+84.7% at constant prices) "winning" compared to the Spanish one (+70.9%);
- Colombia: thanks to the acceleration phase underway (with an increase in sectoral imports in the last five years of +167 per cent at constant prices)4, in 2022 this market, with 41 million euros of imports, was positioned in eleventh position in the ranking of the main non-European importing countries in the sector. On this market, once again the Spanish offer appears clearly dominant, with a 2022 share of 83.6 percent of the market and growth of 163 percentage points over the last five years (at constant prices), while the Italian offer appears marginal, with a 2022 share of just 2.3 percent and only a moderately positive trend in sales over the last five years (+25% at constant prices);
- Taiwan: This is a niche market with significant growth potential5. Growing consumer awareness of the health benefits of olive oil and the growing popularity of Mediterranean cuisine are driving the demand for high-quality virgin olive oil in the country. In 2022 this market, with 33 million euros of imports, was positioned in 13th position in the ranking of the main non-European importing countries in the sector. On this market, characterized in the last five years by an overall growth in imports of the sector of 63.4% at constant prices, the Spanish offer is dominant, with a 2022 share of 57 percent of the market and growth in the last five years of 167% (at constant prices), while the Italian offer appears to be delayed, with a 2022 share of 28 percent and a only moderately positive trend in sales over the last five years (+20.3% at constant prices).
Virgin Olive Oil: main extra-European BLOC markets
(trends at constant prices)
Source: ExportPlanning-Ulisse Datamart
The growing globalization process underway in international trade in the virgin olive oil sector is highlighting numerous markets in the phase of structural acceleration of their sectoral imports (so-called BLOC markets), especially with reference to non-European destinations.
In competitive terms, with reference to the main non-European markets in acceleration, the Spanish offer of virgin olive oil appears better positioned and in recent years more dynamic than the Italian one.
1) The deflation of sectoral world trade dynamics in value, through the measurement of phenomena at constant prices, shows, on average in 2022, an increase in world trade in virgin olive oil of +20.3% in prices and +7.5% % in quantities.
2) In the past, olive oil was not a common staple in South Korean cuisine, but in recent years, the popularity of olive oil has increased due to the increase in interest in Western cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. This market is expected to grow in the future (with ExportPlanning forecasts highlighting the achievement of a value of over 185 million euros in 2026), as more and more consumers seek to follow a healthier diet and the South Korean government is promoting local agriculture, including the production of olive oil.
3) Olive oil in Mexico is a niche product, as most consumers prefer other types of oil such as sunflower or corn oil. However, there is growing interest in high-quality olive oil among Mexican consumers, particularly among those following healthier diets. In the scenario to 2026, Mexican imports of virgin olive oil are expected to exceed 134 million euros.
4) The increase in demand for olive oil in Colombia appears, at least in part, to be due to increased consumer awareness regarding the health benefits of olive oil compared to other vegetable oils. Also, many Colombian consumers are becoming more sophisticated and are looking for high quality products, including high quality extra virgin olive oils. In the forecast scenario formulated by StudiaBo as part of the ExportPlanning Information System, Colombian imports in the sector are expected to exceed EUR 55 million by 2026.
5) Taiwan's virgin olive oil market is characterized by a strong preference for product quality and purity. Taiwanese consumers appear to be very demanding regarding the origin of the oil and the quality of the olives used for the production of the oil. Furthermore, the market is oriented towards organic and natural products. In the forecast scenario to 2026, sectoral imports of this market are expected to exceed 44 million euros.