Eleftheria Germanaki giving her presentation at the FHC Olive Oil Summit

Last month, two Greek olive oil experts were invited to share their knowledge at the Olive Oil Summit of the Food & Hotel China (FHC) 2018 exposition at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. Eleftheria Germanaki and Kostas Liris appreciated this opportunity to reach out to Chinese professionals who work with the growing Chinese olive oil market.

According to its website, FHC is an international exhibition aimed at the food, drink, hospitality, food service, bakery, and retail industries. “FHC is exclusively for imported and top-quality products. With 43% of visitors coming from outside Shanghai, FHC really is the only international exhibition serving the China market, making it the benchmark for international companies looking to collaborate with markets in China and Asia.”

Designed to help “buyers and professional visitors truly understand the charm of olive oil,” the FHC Olive Oil Summit included an olive oil exhibit; a guided olive oil tasting; expert presentations about olive oil production, health benefits, and the olive oil business; and a cooking demonstration highlighting the different qualities of olive oil.

In her Olive Oil Summit presentation, Eleftheria Germanaki discussed olive oil production in the major producing countries, mentioned olive oil quality issues, and provided an introduction to olive oil tasting for olive oil market professionals, journalists, and consumers. Germanaki is an international olive oil competition judge, panel leader, educator, and head of the Laboratory of Organoleptic Evaluation of Olive Oil in Rethymno, Crete.

Impressed by the size and organization of the FHC exhibition, Germanaki suggested that the organizers’ inclusion of an olive oil summit indicated “the importance of olive oil in their market.” She told Greek Liquid Gold that her audience “showed great interest and enthusiasm for a rather unknown topic for them.” While they found it “quite unusual to participate in an olive oil tasting session and actually drink olive oil, they really enjoyed it.” She was delighted to have the “opportunity to speak about the particularities of Greek olive oil varieties” to a highly engaged audience.

Dedicated to helping Greeks produce high quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and to making that EVOO more visible internationally, Germanaki was pleased to extend her mission to China. Greek olive oil is still relatively unknown there, she told Greek Liquid Gold, comprising only 1% of the 37,000 metric tons of olive oil imported by China in 2017.

Yet Germanaki believes the FHC organizers’ invitation to Greek professionals “shows the positive impression they have of the Greek olive oil sector.” She thinks there is potential for Greek olive oil exporters to expand into the Chinese market, if they “focus on that market with a well prepared plan” based on “a good study of the market” and an understanding of what Chinese consumers are looking for.

In his Olive Oil Summit presentation, Kostas Liris discussed “new opportunities in the international market and the way to succeed in it,” mainly addressing Chinese importers and managers. He mentioned that “Russia, China, and Japan are the new target markets,” that is, important markets developing more recently, after the USA and Europe, as demand for olive oil increases worldwide. Liris is an international olive oil tasting competition judge, panel leader, agronomist, educator, writer, consultant, and founder of the IRIS-Agricultural Union of Messinia.

Liris informed Greek Liquid Gold that his audience showed “a great interest in the management of the international import and export of olive oil.” The Chinese, he says, are now learning how to handle the extra virgin olive oil that is “a relatively new product” for them. While EVOO is not part of traditional Chinese cuisine, Liris mentioned that many people in China “have totally adopted the Western way of life,” while Europeans and Americans who live and work in China provide another market to explore there.  

Liris was grateful for the chance to interact with Chinese professionals during his presentation, which enabled him to better understand their needs. He believes China is “a great market that should be a target market for the Greek olive oil sector,” since it is growing, and many Chinese consumers know and visit Greece. However, he believes that in order to sell it is crucial to first focus “on educating the people about this fantastic, unique product, extra virgin olive oil.”

With plenty of room to increase its market share in China, Greek olive oil may benefit from these two “ambassadors’” efforts to increase awareness about its quality and the way it could appeal to more Chinese citizens.

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Thanks to Eleftheria Germanaki and Kostas Liris for the photos that appear with this article.

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