Bringing longevity to China’s booming olive oil market

January 16, 2019
3 min read

As we see an increase in the number of health-conscious consumers limiting the amount of oil in their diets, China’s olive oil market is booming. Spain has benefitted the most from this, accounting for about four-fifths of China’s total olive oil imports. Italy, Greece and Turkey are also among the countries with a share of the pie in this market.

Though Spain is traditionally the largest importer of olive oil in China, the tides are changing. Various factors, such as a reduction in production costs in Italy and China’s tariff reductions on olive oil from Italy, have boosted the popularity of Italian olive oil with Chinese consumers.

In the future, to continue increasing market share in this market, countries like Italy, Greece and Tunisia should differentiate their olive oil product positioning to adapt to Chinese consumers’ attitudes towards oil and their changing eating habits.

Encouraging usage by communicating health benefits

The limiting of oil consumption among health-conscious Chinese consumers comes with age. Mintel research reveals that almost half of Chinese consumers aged 40-49 have reduced the amount of oil in their diets in 2016.

Communicating health benefits on-pack could help consumers feel more comfortable using olive oil over other oil types. The fortification of oil can also address the needs of various demographics.

Kristal Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Mother and Baby, Turkey
This is rich in polyphenols and claims to be similar to breast milk, containing omega-6 and omega-3. It is suitable for babies above the age of seven months.

Costa d’Oro Il Veg Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Vitamin B12, Italy

This olive oil is enriched with vitamin B12, and is specially recommended for vegans and vegetarians as it helps with brain functionality, the immune system, red blood cell formation and fatigue reduction.

Complementing changes in Chinese cooking habits

According to Mintel research, Chinese consumers are using more steaming and boiling, and less deep-frying and sautéing in their at-home cooking. This trend is more pronounced among married consumers and those aged over 30. This lighter cooking style is likely to remain popular among Chinese families; therefore, promoting olive oil as a product suitable for drizzling or dipping has the potential to complement steamed or boiled foods.

Another area for olive oil brands to tap into is salad oil, particularly as salad is becoming a commonality in China’s foodservice scene. On top of this, more and more consumers are trying to recreate this simple and healthy dish in the comfort of their homes. Brands can promote the suitability of olive oil on-pack as a salad dressing or as a composite ingredient to make a dressing.

Making things memorable through good storytelling

Consumers are craving products and experiences that come with a stamp of authenticity, something that Mintel Trend ‘The Real Thing’ discusses. Storytelling is a core component of human learning and interaction, so Chinese olive oil brands have the opportunity to find better ways to communicate the process, provenance, and the rich history behind their products. They should also explain the differences in grades and flavour profiles, creating an emotional response and justifying higher price points.

De Bijenkorf Food Stories Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Netherlands
Great example of storytelling. The pack features a charming tale about the rediscovery of the forgotten Arbequina olive on a single tree near Arbeca in Catalonia, Spain.

Ayisha Koyenikan
Ayisha Koyenikan

As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors. She also leads Mintel’s Summer Internship Programme.

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