Olive oil, oil extracted from the fleshy part of the ripened fruit of the olive tree, Olea europaea. Olive oil varies in color from clear yellow to golden; some varieties obtained from unripe fruit have a greenish tinge. Oils of varying characteristics and qualities are produced by almost every country that grows olives, the variations depending on the district and the ripeness of the fruit.
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids (eicosenoic acid, omega-9: C20:1 n-9) and polyphenols. These substances have been regarded as beneficial for cardiovascular health in many epidemiological studies and are the subject of intense research. Olive oil has been duly recognized as an important functional food ingredient with a wide range of positive effects on human health.
Euromonitor International estimates that global olive oil consumption will increase by 0.7%/year between 2007-11 to 34,000 tonnes in 2011 due to population growth, with the highest per capita consumption in Greece (20.7 kg/person, 2007–11), followed by Italy (16.5 kg). Euromonitor International data show that in 2008, olive oil was consumed most in Spain (29%), followed by Italy (22%) and Greece (12%).
The major type of olive used for oil production is the olive, Olea europaea var. europaea, which accounts for more than 80% of the world's production. The rest comes mainly from the koroneiki variety (Olea europaea var. sylvestris), grown mostly in Greece, and the less common pendolino and picual varieties (Olea europaea var. acorae and Olea europaea var. holmii, respectively). Olive oil is an emulsion of oil and water (and sometimes air) with tiny droplets of the oil dispersed within the water phase; it does not form a true solution because the droplets are not large enough to be seen clearly.
Olives are harvested by hand in the morning when they are fully ripened, and processed within 24 hours. There are several methods for extracting oil from olives. The most widely used is the cold-press method, which uses grinding stones or steel presses to crush fruit followed by a gravity-centrifugation process to separate the liquid (oil) phase from the solid (pomace) phase. Cold-pressing yields a maximum of 30% oil, with 3-5% extra virgin oil and 65-70% "refined", "pure", or "olive pomace" oil. Generally, the cold-press method can produce as much as 50% more oil than other methods, but this comes at the expense of a marked reduction in polyphenol and flavonoid content. Nothing is added: no heat, acids, preservatives, water, or solvents.
Global olive oil production
Olive oil is one of the most popular oils in the world, and its production has been increasing steadily in recent years. In 2016, global olive oil production reached a new record high of 3.4 million metric tons (MMT), according to the International Olive Council (IOC). This represented a 2% increase over the previous year.
The majority of olive oil production takes place in the Mediterranean region, where the climate is ideal for olive trees. Italy, Spain, and Greece are the top three producers in the world, accounting for more than 70% of total global production. Other major producing countries include Turkey, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia.
The global olive oil market is expected to continue growing in the coming years. The IOC predicts that production will reach 4 MMT by 2020, with consumption following suit at 4.2 MMT. This would represent a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3% for both production and consumption.
The primary driver of this growth is the increasing popularity of olive oil as a healthy cooking oil. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, olive oil contains antioxidants and other nutrients that can promote good health.
As more consumers become aware of the health benefits of olive oil, demand is expected to continue increasing. This will likely lead to higher prices and greater profits for producers. In the meantime, be sure to stock up on your favorite olive oil so you can enjoy its many benefits.