Marco De Ceglie, Chairman of the North American Olive Oil Association, says: “To support the value of authentic Italian olive oil, first we need more production and more continuity in availability year on year. Secondly, we need to expand the consumption of olive oil in general so that in a larger market and with many more consumers involved we can have more opportunities for the Italian quality to be tried and appreciated”.
Speaking at a webinar sponsored by the Italian Embassy to the United States, De Ceglie stressed, “We need to start converting more US consumers to the consumption of olive oil”. He added, guaranteeing quality is the threshold otherwise the consumer loses trust in the product.
ITALY BELIEVES AMERICAN CONSUMERS DESERVE TRUSTWORTHY TRADING PARTNERS
Italian olive oil is a growing trend in the US. Last year, almost 40% of the overall value of the US import of olive oil came from Italy. Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio to the USA welcomed participants during the webinar on olive oil: ensuring quality and authenticity sponsored by the Italian embassy last month.
“American consumers deserve products originating from reliable trading partners. Olive oil products imported from Italy undergo high level quality, traceability controls and authenticity standards. Which underpin all our range of products from those bound to retail chains and mass consumption to our premium extra virgin olive oils with geographic identification”, said Varricchio.
Olive oil still isn’t widely consumed in the US, De Ceglie during the webinar said that more than half of US families never buy olive oil. On the positive side, De Ceglie said, there is opportunity for consumer growth if Americans see olive oil not as a niche product but rather as a healthy product. Even though olive oil gained popularity in the 1980s in the US as a product to help with one’s diet, the majority of Americans only buy two liters of olive oil a year. Compare that to Italians buying one liter per month.
FDA & REGULATING OLIVE OIL
De Ceglie addressed his association’s lobbying efforts to ask the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce standard identity for olive oil. The association for the last twenty years has been trying to propose a standard of identity to the FDA.
De Ceglie explained the importance of working with the FDA, “not having a legal base to assess genuinity and authenticity and the quality of olive oil is a problem in a country as big as the United States. One of the key points is to gain and maintain the trust of the US consumers. That’s why a standard of identity agreed with the Food and Drug Administration is a fundamental step to have a growth of the category”.
The FDA is asking all olive oil associations seeking regulation to propose one unifying proposal. While this lumps together various olive oil from different countries, De Ceglie says his association is working with associations in Europe to help push the FDA to get in line with what Europe has done with olive oil. More government oversight would help prevent fraud in the industry.
TRACEABILITY IS IMPORTANT FOR MAINTAINING AUTHENTIC ITALIAN OLIVE OIL
Italy is the only country within the EU that has its own system for traceability for olive oil that includes all the operators of the sector.
Felice Assenza, Head of the Inspectorate of Quality Protectionand repression of fraud on agri-food productsat the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, was the keynote speaker at the webinar. Assenza told ItalianFood.Net, “Thanks to the establishment of the electronic register of olive oils, the control has become more punctual and timely, being able to monitor the flows of oil on the market”.
This system guarantees traceability of olive oil from the field to the packaging. It is a tool that has oversight for operators who promote products on international markets.Traceability is important because it creates fair competition Assenza said.