The Us olive oil market

WOOE. Interview with David Neuman, ceo of Gaea North America and soon-to-be independent consultant for the US olive oil market. Following his masterclass, will be available for an hour to answer questions or concerns from producers and professionals

Olio Officina

The Us olive oil market

David Neuman is a food industry veteran with over 30 years’ experience, as well as a certified second-level professional extra-virgin olive oil taster by the ONAOO (Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva). He has been for several years the president of Lucini, one of the most important imported brands in the United States, now owned by California Olive Ranch. Since 2015, David has also been the CEO of Gaea North America, but as from the WOOE, he will begin his career as independent consultant for the US olive oil industry.

David Neuman will be in Madrid on the coming 21st of March to give a masterclass on “The extra virgin olive oil importing industry in the United States. Opportunities from the pallet to the shopping basket.” Furthermore, this US expert has chosen the WOOE to announce that, from now on, he will start a new venture as independent consultant for the US olive oil market.

His presence in Madrid provides a unique opportunity for all those producers, distributors, brokers and professionals who might be interested in entering into a market as key as the US market.

Following his masterclass, David Neuman will be available for an hour to answer questions or concerns from producers and professionals.

Olive oil professionals, if you are interested in the United States, do not miss this unique opportunity for your business development!

And for those who do not want to wait, here you have a preview in the format of an exclusive interview for the WOOE.

What do you expect from your new phase as “Consultant to the US Market? Which are your more pressing challenges?
I think a role like that which I am creating for myself is long overdue for the US Marketplace. This is what excites me the most. When Tom Mueller published his book “Extra Virginity”, he and I spent a lot of time working together on how to improve the olive oil assortment in America. He left this industry years ago and since then there has been a void. I hope and plan, that given my many years of experience not just in Olive Oil but in specialty foods as a whole, I will discover the welcomed access I need to help producers, importers, distributors, brokers and importantly retailers with their Extra Virgin Olive Oil business.

Change comes hard in America. Consumers by nature don’t place a lot of value on food. Therefore, better-quality Extra Virgin grade olive oil is harder to sell when the prices start to climb over $15 retail for a 500ml bottle. I need to help my future clients overcome the fear of the challenge and continue the fight for proper labeling and positioning quality above price. I’m certain I can accomplish this with persistence.

What is your advice for those oil mills which are thinking about exporting to the US?
The old saying remains true: There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. For many, this implies that we must look at multiple avenues for succeeding in the USA. While America is the largest import market for Olive Oil in the World (305,000 MT annually projected the INTERNATIONAL OLIVE OIL COUNCIL (NOVEMBER 2017), international producers cannot take advantage of this by shipping substandard grade olive oil or mislabeled product. Our buyers in the trade are for the most part inexperienced and naive. They see a low price, do not know how to evaluate the sample and make a poor decision which ultimately affects the consumer who placed their trust in a particular retail buyer.

I have a few simple tips and welcome the opportunity to meet with millers to help them navigate the US market:

1) Be prepared; have the product, the financial support and patience to build your brand in the US slowly. Or consider private label/bulk sales if this suits you better.

2) Decide if you want to sell your product X works Net Net to an importer or import the product on your own and establish your own US operations.

3) Realize who your competition is and how can you position your brand uniquely, so a broker/distributor and buyer can easily understand this and can envision sales.

4) Pricing is a key issue- be prepared to sell your items at a competitive price if you desire volume or try a higher price point but understand it will be more of a niche business.

5) Spanish quality oils are the hardest to find on the shelves and this creates a great opportunity.

Which countries currently have a higher market share in the US and which ones have more potential to grow in the years to come?
According to the IOC in 2016, the Greeks consume the most Olive Oil per capita at 17 liters per person. The USA is 0.9 liters per person but has been growing steadily. If American’s only increased their consumption from 0.9 liters per person to 1.8 (similar to France and Croatia), the imports of Olive Oil would double to 610,000 MT annually. California cannot support even the existing business with their production much less a growing demand. Therein lies the opportunity for International growers, millers and bottlers.

What should be avoided by an olive oil brand if it wants to succeed in the US?
Fantasizing about the opportunity. The market is here. The consumers want better oil. But the road to success is hard and takes time.

Do you know success stories which are currently shaking up the olive oil sector in the US?
California Olive Ranch who own their brand and Lucini Italia have been very successful attacking both the “every day” consumer and the trade-up user to their Lucini items. Their combined sales are suspected to be over $150 Million USD/annually. Gaea has done well tripling the sales in three years from where it was when their former importer had the line. Costco remains the largest retailer of bottled Olive Oil and has tested five private label 1-liter items from Italy, Spain and Greece for about $10 a bottle.

Education is the key. Like the wine industry, that has taken decades to grow and draw more enthusiasts to their products, so too must the Olive Oil Industry. I have devoted the last 12+ years in both learning more about Olive Oil and teaching mini classes to the trade consumers and media about the category to help de-mystify the products.

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