Greek olive oil producers have been moving up market, building brand value on what was once a bulk agricultural commodity and positioning their products at leading retailers and restaurants around the world.The effort has paid off: last month a
Greek olive oil from Laconia – one of the most venerated olive producing regions in Greece since antiquity – was voted the best flavored olive oil in the world. It also represents a rising trend for Greek olive oil producers who in the past year have harvested some 400 taste awards internationally, a sharp increase from previous years.
In the last decade, a new generation of producers and entrepreneurs, has lifted Greek olive oil to new heights. Brands like Sakellaropoulos,Gaea or Lambda -- among others -- have distinguished themselves in the global market place.
At the same time, Greek olive oil exports have soared: in the last five years, for example, exports to the U.S. – the world’s largest consum
er market – have roughly doubled to about 10,000 tons.
In Laconia, home to some 14 million olive trees and the site of the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta, the land is particularly blessed. The reason relates to the topography of the central Evrotas river valley and the microclimate created by mountain ranges just west and east of the valley.
“In Laconia, a place full of flavors and aromas, the two mountain ranges of Mount Taygetos and Parnon and the valley of the Evrotas River, favors the olive tree,” says Ioannis Panaritis, chairman of the Laconia Chamber of Commerce. “The comparative advantage of Laconian olive oil are the antioxidants, polyphenols and the low acidity due to the microclimate and also the early harvest and pressing process.”