The Greek Problem

Greeks have been making olive oil for as long as mankind has been know to cultivate food. The history is rich, with legends such as in the odyssey about the power of olive oil. The ancient Greeks were leaders in innovation, science and philosophy, one can imagine that they probably made a pretty darn good olive oil. However, oil from Greece generally is less seen as a quality product, as sellers of quality oil seem to tout it less than their Italian and Spanish counterparts The question is what happened? While the oil coming from Greece today, mostly from the Koroneiki olive, is as good as ever, they still suffer from a lack of marketing. Italy has stolen their thunder, and even Spain has increasingly seen an uptick in their ability to sell high quality olive oil. As with most issues in the olive oil world, the crux of the problem starts with the major bottlers. Everyone who knows a thing or two about about olive oil, will tell you  to look where the oil comes from on a bottle that looks and sounds like Italy. Greece has been one of those Countries (along with Tunisia, Morroco, Spain) that has been consistently mentioned on bottles that look like they come from Italy. They have all had to struggle with this reputation, and even Italy has to deal with it as well (especially oil that comes from Apulia). Why is Spain having success more so than Greece? I believe they simply have been quicker and stronger in spreading the word about their oil faster. While 50% of all Extra Virgin Olive Oil come from Spain, thus making them the primary culprit on all mislabeled bottles, they have managed to fight their way out. Hard work and a good marketing program taken on by each individual producer has recreated their image and allowed it to become a premium product.  Greece is right there. An added caveat as to perhaps explain their troubles. While the Picual is synonomous with Spain, and quality. The koroneiki does not enjoy the same popularity. Given that it is one of the worlds most popular variety, especially in new worlds production (such as Australia California and South America) it has perhaps damaged the mystique surrounding the olive.  As they expand the producers will follow the lead of what Spain has done and keep them on the level playing field they need to be, in order to maximize the value of the oil being produced. The quality is there, the history is there, now it just needs to be spread, and entrenched with the quality olive oil customer base. 


Raphael Bondi

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