I've been doing some research recently on the olive oil industry for a presentation and encountered a few really interesting and informative studies and articles. As expected, there are numerous health-related articles (olive oil kills cancer cells!) and several regarding fraud and mislabeling. I also came across a few regarding the state of the overall industry with detailed analysis.
An August, 2013 report by the US International Trade Commission studied a variety of factors in the olive oil industry as it relates to competition for US producers. In the report, there is a profile of the major producing countries, including Greece. The report notes the following about Greek production:
Greece produces high-quality oil, though most of its exports are destined to Italy for blending and bottling.
Greece plays an important role in global olive oil production, but little of its oil enters world markets as a bottled Greek product. Most Greek olive oil is consumed domestically (mostly sold directly by the mill to the final consumer), as Greece has the highest per capita olive oil consumption in the world. Of the remainder, most is exported to major bottlers in Italy for blending with other extra virgin olive oils from various sources. Greek extra virgin oil is recognized by blenders and bottlers as a component that raises the overall quality and flavor profile of a blend. Recent industry and government initiatives seek to increase Greek oil’s competitiveness by reducing the sector’s dependence on bulk exports to Italy and focusing more on selling differentiated Greek product.
So while Greek individual brands have been declining on store shelves, Greek oil has been making it into blended oils because of its superior flavor profile. The thought process being that if you take 90% low-quality oil and blend in 10% high-quality and flavorful oil, the result is decent oil, which is passable at cheap prices. Low prices, low expectations, low quality. You get what you pay for.
With Spartan Oil, we are trying hard to break that cycle. Our belief is that consumers should have access to premium extra virgin olive oil directly without intermediaries. A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is a far greater value, too. As the quality of the oil decreases, so too do the health benefits. We manage as much of the process as possible--production, packing, shipping, bottling, and sales--to ensure the integrity of the product. This results in additional time and cost, but the quality is certain.