Simon Field, August 2017

One of the unexpected benefits of participating in a Savantes tasting is the occasional opportunity to experience something beyond evaluating olive oil. Such an opportunity arose when attendees at the Seville programme were invited to visit the Juan Ramón Guillén Foundation museum on the outskirts of the city. Our host was Juan González of Hacienda Guzmán, who participated in the Seville programme.

The Foundation was founded in 2011 with the purpose of bringing the rural sector closer to the public with special emphasis on the olive sector. The centrepiece is the Hacienda Guzmán from which the brand of quality extra virgin olive oils takes its name. Six centuries ago, Hernando, the son of Christopher Columbus, produced olive oil on the estate and exported it to America.

Hacienda Guzmán

The stately house is the home to the olive oil museum with a massive beam olive oil press and many of

The Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition provides an opportunity to compare the products entered from the major producing countries and the USA. The Northern Hemisphere segment has just been completed with 516 entries.

The comparative performance of olive oils from countries with over 20 entries shows that Spain outperformed all other countries with 31% of the entries being awarded gold medals.

The trend of competitions with high numbers of producer judges awarding higher medals, evident in the analysis of 2012 Australian extra virgin olive oil competitions, has continued in 2013. A comparison of awards given at the Melbourne and Sydney Fine Food Awards and the Australian Olive Association (AOA) Competition shows that for brands entered in all three, the Melbourne event awarded the highest medal in 11 cases.

The AOA competition awarded the highest medal in 7 cases and the Sydney Fine Food Show in 5. The judging panel of 13 in Melbourne included only 2 judges who are not producers. The AOA panel is no longer published but traditionally the majority are producers.

The Sydney Show panel, while not published to date, generally has a broader food and restaurant industry membership.

Reliable data on Australian production and consumption is difficult to obtain. The International Olive Council (IOC) publishes international tables on production, consumption, exports and imports. Analysis of this data alongside that provided by the Australian Olive Association and Australia’s largest producer, Boundary Bend Limited, suggests that the IOC figures overstate Australian consumption of olive oil by up to 30% in some years.

The Australian data in Table 1 extrapolated from the Boundary Bend 2013 Annual Report. The analysis shows that the IOC overstates Australian production with the result that Australian consumption is lower than generally stated by the IOC.

The Australian Olive Association in its industry snapshot for 2012 states ‘Australian apparent consumption of olive oil for the period 2005 to 2012 increased by 16%  to 51,7108 tonnes’, clearly a gross overstatement by approximately 37%.

The USITC report on the status of the olive oil market in the USA has received comment from many interest groups. The report provides very useful data on the world trade in olive oil and particularly the US market. As with many of these reports it gives every lobby group selective arguments to support their case.

One important analysis from the report, the econometric study of demand elasticity (‘ how demand for one oil is affected by price changes in another’) has received little comment. In summary the analysis leads to the following conclusions:

  • ‘There is little evidence that purchases of domestic branded extra virgin olive oil are affected by price changes for branded foreign extra virgin olive oil, private label extra virgin olive oil, or all other grades of olive oil.’