the Ladolea stand at the Food Expo, with ancient-style ceramic bottles in various colors

From March 18 to 20, more than 31,000 food industry professionals from 83 countries joined 1,300 exhibitors at the Food Expo in the Metropolitan Expo Center near the Athens airport. At several of the many stands featuring Greek olive oil and table olives, company representatives presented their products and innovations and shared their views of the sector.

As Maria Foule (Cretan Mill) pointed out, this was the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic that people from all over the world felt comfortable at the Food Expo. Foule explained, “I feel at home at an exhibition center, meeting with people again, full of energy.”  

Katerina Bougatsou (Stalia) agreed that “step by step, things are going better,” as people are not as afraid of the coronavirus, and more international clients appeared. Aris Markantonakis (ABEA) also saw more wholesalers based in Greece than he has seen at the Expo in previous years.

Prices and Sales

While this year’s higher olive oil prices can benefit producers and help them cover their own increased costs, these prices can also reduce the amount of olive oil sold and consumed.

a man and a woman standing near an exhibit of Energaea olive oil bottles

For George Dimas (Energaea), “things are stable” in the Greek olive oil business. He is “worried, but not in panic,” believing “we’ve had worse” times in the sector. His company has been trying to increase the number of customers they have in order to compensate for getting smaller orders with more delay between them. They have found it helpful to begin selling their own infused olive oil for the first time, since that opens up the possibility of selling to new businesses, such as delicatessens.

For Manolis Antonakis (Terra di Sitia), the high price paid to producers for olive oil this crop year is a problem, because that makes a bottle of olive oil expensive enough that it becomes hard to sell. European clients, for example, are looking for a lower price. “We are trying to be competitive so we can reduce the cost, but have good income; it’s very difficult to have a balance.”

Since Ioannis Kampouris (Elawon) also found that European buyers have been looking for both lower prices and very good quality, and they are buying less olive oil due to the economic crisis, his company has started selling more gifts and luxury products in the United Arab Emirates. There, Kampouris suggests, clients better understand the relationship between price and quality.

Bottles and Packaging

Problems with the availability and price of packaging have continued for more than a year now.

Kampouris reported that his company imports their bottles from Ukraine and has had a big delay receiving them. Marianna Devetzoglou (Oleosophia) said they must order their bottles well in advance because of supply chain delays. Giorgos Karitsiotis (Kasell) also described very high prices and shortages of glass and tins. On the other hand, Panagiotis Zisiadis (AGROVIM) indicated that his company has had no serious packaging problems because they have many suppliers and good alternatives, although they have paid three times as much as usual for packaging.

Katerina Bougatsou (Stalia) told Greek Liquid Gold that the bottle shortage forced her company to switch to a new 500-ml bottle in place of their uniquely shaped bottle. After months of waiting in vain, they gave up and made the change last September. Customers want their old bottle back, since the newer one is less striking and thus harder to sell, but it is unclear when the previous design will be available.  

Bougatsou explained that there were problems with bottles due to reduced production during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also because of an earlier switch away from reliance on big glass factories and logistics companies in China. Now, she said, bottles are made in smaller factories in France and Italy that cannot produce as much. This worsens packaging problems due to Ukrainian factories being bombed during the war in that country.

Marcos Mourtzanakis (Critida) said his company has faced challenges obtaining bottles because of that war. He blames difficulties with raw materials used to make glass, as well as problems with factories obtaining natural gas, which has led to higher costs and underperformance by bottle-making companies.

Innovations and New Products

On the brighter side, many Greek olive oil companies displayed elegant bottles they did manage to acquire, as well as sharing news about new and innovative products and services.

3-liter bag-in-box packages attached to the wall

For example, Kasell unveiled new 3-liter bag-in-box packages that attach to the wall and seem convenient for food service dispensing. On a much smaller scale, Elawon followed up on previous years’ elegant glass perfume bottles filled with extra virgin olive oil, which confused consumers, by introducing a delicate perfume made with olive tree blossoms this year.

Marmaro offered a new series of olive spreads featuring creative flavor combinations, including green or black olives with pastirma (a cured meat), green olives with sun-dried tomato and oregano, and even black olives with plum and coffee.

a man sitting behind a table with small appetizers for tasting olive oil, and bottles of different olive spreads

In Corinth, Markellos is one of a growing number of Greek olive oil companies to invite visitors to tour their facilities and olive groves, as well as enjoying a guided olive oil tasting. Moreover, as their brochure reveals, their agrotourism venture adds unusual options with the help of “the first virtual reality video about extra virgin olive oil production in Greece.” This lets visitors feel like they are producing the olive oil, driving a tractor, and harvesting.

Capitalizing on a growing interest in healthy foods and continuing her work with useful innovations, Ioanna Diamanti (Pellas Nature) earned a new Activity FoodOxys Quality (AFQ) certification for the impressively healthy antioxidant activity and bioactivity of her company’s organic oregano infused olive oil.

a FoodOxys certificate next to a bottle of Pellas Nature oregano infused olive oil

Evi Psounou Prodromou (Yanni’s Olive Grove and Propharco) introduced new MICOIL products that are “natural, plant-based foods based on olive oil, produced from unripe green olives” from Ηalkidiki, as their brochure indicates. The original MICOIL product is simply early harvest high phenolic extra virgin olive oil, but MICOIL Plus is enriched with olive leaf extract that adds extra vitamin E and D2 and has “500% more antioxidant content than normal olive oil.”

MICOIL Plus Omega 3 includes that, plus as much Omega 3 as 197 anchovy fillets, using a marine microalgae extract as its Omega 3 source to make it suitable for vegans. Prodromou reported that a surprising number of interested foreign buyers viewed these products, especially MICOIL Plus Omega 3, as “extraordinary.”

a young woman standing next to a banner about MICOIL products

So even with challenges in pricing and packaging, Greek olive oil companies managed to continue offering a wide range of high quality choices and intriguing innovations at this year’s Food Expo in Athens.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.

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