According to the California olive oil council, the production of olives in the North American subcontinent can be traced to the 18th century. The crop was introduced from the Mediterranean areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe, where it was grown from the biblical ages. The commercial production of olive oil and packaging in the U.S did not start until the 1800s as demand for the product grew in line with growing industrial age wages. Over the years, demand for the product has skyrocketed, with record levels being witnessed in the 21st century. As at 2016, it is estimated that the United States consumed approximately 316,000 metric tons of olive oil. The demand accounts for 10% of the global olive oil consumption (Xiong, Matthews, and Sumner 14). Despite being grown in California, U.S demand far outstrips local production, resulting in a net import of approximately 300,000 metric tons. This means that California, the United States’ major producer of olive oil only accounts for 5% of demand. The rest is sourced from Italy, Spain, and the Mediterranean. This paper will examine the trends in the U.S. olive oil market, with a special emphasis on consumer behavior.
American taste for olive oil has been steadily increasing over the past two centuries. The demand for virgin olive oil, which is mechanically pressed, has quadrupled over the past twenty years. An important question at this point would be what Americans are using olive oil for.
Uses of Olive Oil
According to Xiong, Matthews, and Sumner (20) olive oil in the U.S is mostly used as cooking oil and as a salad additive. The health benefits of the product have been touted in health magazines, on cooking shows, and nearly all channels of media distribution. Olives as a fruit, and its oil, have been known since time immemorial for having numerous health benefits. Doctors promote the use of olive oil to improve blood circulation, thus preventing strokes and varicose veins, it ensures that skin remains young and hydrated, reduces body cholesterol, promotes digestion, and works as an antioxidant (Preedy and Watson 42). All these health benefits have made olive oil a darling product in American households.
Olive oil is also used in a number of religious practices. The Jews and Christians embrace the use of the product in some practices. In traditional Jewish societies, olive oil was used by anointment of leaders such as kings. It is currently used as a holy product for anointment and lighting the hanukkiah. Under the Christian doctrine, olive oil is used in ordination of church leaders such as priests and bishops; it is also used in practices such as healing the sick, and in home prayers and ceremonies such as funerals. On the industrial front, olive oil is used widely in the cosmetic sector for manufacturing makeup, lipstick, and toners. In addition, olive oil is known for its use as a skin care product. Due to its ability to keep skin young and maintain skin hydration, the product has been integrated into facial oils and creams. The oil is also used as an industrial lubricant for kitchen machines such as grinders and blenders. It can also be used for illumination and to make soap. Therefore, as has been mentioned, the applications of olive oil are numerous and far-reaching. These numerous applications explain the high demand for the product in American markets…