ATHENS – Despite selling off much of its prized “green gold” to other countries, especially Italy, to sell in bulk and not marketing the product aggressively, Greek olive oil has won another top honor in world ratings.
Greek flavored and gourmet olive oil products were at the top of the Evoo World Ranking 2021 (EVOOWR 2021,) led by Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms, which won every prize in the Top 5 Flavored Oils of the Year 2021 category, setting five new records, while another nine of the farm’s gourmet oils were ranked in the World Top 25 and in the Best Flavored Oils of the Year 2021 categories.
EVOOWR tested 16,584 samples of olive oil from 37 countries and 2,105 companies, which had already been distinguished in 29 international competitions, said Kathimerini in a report.
The company also came second in the Top 25 Societies of Flavored Oil of The World 2021 category, for a third consecutive year. The company also ranked in the 20 leading olive oil production companies in the world, among 2105 such companies from 37 countries.
That showed off another gourmet olive oil product that can’t easily be found on supermarket shelves that stock major brands as Greek manufacturers have been slow to market and export or advertise.
Yiannis Skiadas, who makes olive oil in a mountainside mill using Kalamata olives, perhaps the world’s best from a famed Peloponnese region, shuns the extra work needed to make the higher quality product and instead sells bulk to Italian companies, who blend it into their own under Italian brands that show no sign of the Greek influence.
“All these intermediate steps lead to a rise in our costs,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2017 in a report showing how Greek companies cede recognition for one of its most valuable and prized products.
Greece is the world’s third largest producer of olive oil, blessed with a perfect sunny climate, and an ancient history in making the stuff that is one of the most important symbols of the country.
At that time, a National Bank of Greece report found only 4 percent of branded oil around the world – most of it sadly inferior to Greece’s green gold – is Greek, and instead has labels from a myriad of other countries where farmers and companies have taken the time to reach out to foreign markets.
Greek olive-oil producers have mostly stuck to making bulk oil, unable or unwilling to invest in making the branded product that can command lofty prices in foreign markets.
That has begun to change, even continuing during the COVID-19 lingering pandemic, said Olive Oil Times earlier this year, reporting that exports of Greek bottled olive oil to European Union countries jumped from 7,561 tons in 2002 to 26,872 tons in 2019.
That was increase of 355 percent, according to data from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, published by Sevitel, the association of Greek bottlers of olive oil.
There was a corresponding increase is shown in extra-EU exports of standardized Greek olive oil which rose from 7,290 tons in 2002 to 19,807 tons in 2019, a jump of 272 percent.
In total, the exports of standard Greek olive oil have grown from 14,851 tons to 46,679 tons, according to data from Sevitel, but just try to find some of the best that have won numerous world awards.
At the 2021 edition of the Olivinus international olive oil competition in Argentina, Greek olive oils claimed 52 of the 243 awards. Competing with 419 olive oils from 17 countries, Greek companies distinguished themselves at the largest olive oil competition in the Southern Hemisphere, a contest many also consider the most important in South America, reported the site Greek Liquid Gold.
At the 2021 edition of the London International Olive Oil Competitions (IOOCs), with 924 entries from 35 countries judged by an international jury of 28 tasters, Greek companies took home 233 awards, including 20 platinums.
In its inaugural this year, the Canada International Olive Oil Competition (IOOC) attracted 411 extra virgin olive oils and flavored olive oils from 20 countries and Greek companies won 87 medals, more than any other country. This included six Platinum awards for oils produced by four companies.
At the 2021 Athena International Olive Oil Competition (Athena IOOC), Greece won 179 awards: 18 Special awards, 9 Double Golds, 49 Golds, 52 Silvers, and 51 Bronze medals.
A newcomer to international competitions, A.M.G. Karabelas, won the Best of Greece award for Laurel & Flame Fresh extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from near Ancient Olympia, the site added.
But the site World’s Best Olive Oils didn’t have any Greek company in the top 20, even below those from Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and China, an odd contradiction given just how many awards Greek firms have won elsewhere.