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Anita Donaldson

Britons are spending record amounts on olive oil, according to recent data from market analysts Nielsen. The report says sales have topped £150 million in the UK a year for the first time. That is double the amount sold eight years ago and significantly more than the £90 million spent on vegetable oil. Growing evidence of the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet is behind the trend. Half of UK homes now use olive oil compared with just 35% in 2001.

According to figures from the 2009 Australian and New Zealand Olive Industry Directory, published by Ryan Publications, 24 Australian exporters (11% of all olive product exporters) and 16 New Zealand exporters (21%) are exporting olive products to the United Kingdom.

Surprisingly, given the reports of a boom in olive oil consumption in the British market, this export figure for the UK showed a 4% reduction compared with 2008 for Australia.

New Zealand exporters, however, may well be ahead of Australian counterparts in exploring this market and capitalising on the increasing consumption. England is the country most New Zealand exporters export olive products to, (21.33%) and the number of Kiwi olive exporters sending product to England grew 23% from 2008 to 2009.

There have been several recent events in London that have helped to build the profile of olive oil in the UK capital. The first was the G’day UK celebrations in June at iconic UK retailer Selfridges. The second is the just-completed Savantes program, jointly organised by Australian olive industry expert Simon Field and Judy Ridgway.

Bird in Hand of South Australia and Nolans Road were two Australian EVOO brands represented during the G’day UK event. Austrade’s Senior Trade Commissioner for the UK, Kylie Hargreaves, said: “Products that provide health benefits as well as convenience are predicted to become more prevalent as consumers demand more from convenience food in the UK. By 2015, the UK takeaway and convenience food sector is predicted to experience double-digit growth to reach a value of £12.3bn.”

Simon Field, recently returned from Savantes, writes in the July-August issue of Olivegrower & Processor magazine that the program, held at Fortnum and Mason in London was “an all-round success”.

“Over 65 of the world’s leading olive oils from Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Portugal were tasted by participants from USA, United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Canada and Australia.

“The program evaluated the olive oils in the context of world markets and culinary uses. Tarryn Leigh Steyn, retail development chef with Fortnum and Mason, demonstrated culinary uses of olive oil in the in-store demonstration cooking facility, attracting many shoppers,” said Field.
“The olive oils exhibited the full range of styles and complexities available in world markets, setting a benchmark for the differentiation of extra virgin olive oils by producers seeking to establish or retain their brands on retail shelves.

“2010 is the tenth anniversary of Savantes and planning is already under way to bring together over 300 olive industry participants, who have attended the program over the last 10 years, for a significant update, refresher and renewal of valuable business networks,” Field said.

For more information about Savantes and the opportunities the program offers to Australian and New Zealand olive producers, visit