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Greek Olive Oil Beaten By Tunisian Version in Canadian Market

Greek olive oil Canada
Greek olive oil continues to lose out in Canada despite improvements in its quality. Credit: Arnaud 25/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Greek olive oil exports to Canada are dropping while Tunisian and Italian olive oil dominate the market, according to the most recent figures.

A report released by the Greek Consulate in Toronto on June 1 shows Greece has now dropped to being the fourth largest supplier of olive oil for Canada, a key market.

Greek olive oil in Canada

The Consulate report showed that Greek olive oil exports to Canada have continued on a downward trajectory, despite the popularity of olive oil as a whole increasing in the country.

Virgin olive oil imports to Canada rose 17.16 percent in value from 2019 to 2020 and 34.89 percent in volume. The main supplier was Italy, accounting for fully 40 percent of imports, followed by Tunisia, Spain and then Greece.

Greek olive oil exports as a whole declined four percent in value over 2020 but increased eight percent in quality, according to the report. This points to Greek olive oil being sold for low prices despite becoming increasingly better in quality; therefore, perhaps, there is simply a lack of a strong international strategy in promoting the product.

The report also highlighted an importation phenomenon which involves Greek olive oil being brought into Canada in bulk quantities, in canned packaging. These bulk packages, which often have the option of being delivered directly to private addresses for free, may play a large part in the low prices associated with Greek olive oil in Canada.

Unfortunately, many Greek producers, exporters and importers continue to follow the old tradition of selling non-branded olive oil wholesale — as if we are still living in the marketing world of the 1960s.

All in the strategy

It seems that the reason for this downturn in the Canadian market for Greek olive oil is due to competitive strategies which have been employed by other top olive oil producers.

Italian olive oil, which is in actuality often partly or fully Greek-produced oil, has taken over the gourmet oil market.

For years, the Italian strategy has been to standardize their products, mixing them with Greek olive oil, and creating an air of luxury around their oil. Often restaurateurs will promote Italian olive oil, further reinforcing its supposedly high-end connotations.

Tunisian oil, on the other hand is marketed to the everyday, budget-conscious consumer. The country has put an aggressive marketing campaign into place over the past few years, which focuses on raising awareness of the country as an olive oil producing nation with a historic basis of using olive oil in their Mediterranean cuisine.

Tunisia has cornered the budget-conscious market by pricing their product extremely reasonably.

The same can be said of Spain, which Greece cannot compete with in terms of price. The Mediterranean nation simply produces far larger quantities of olive oil, which allows their producers to sell it at more competitive prices.

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