AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

2022 NAOOA Report

Marco de Ceglie
Filippo Berio

This year I complete my first term as chair of the North American Olive Oil Association. I’m happy to report there have been many developments worth mentioning.

Probably the single-most important development was the lifting of the retaliatory tariffs on Spanish olive oil last July. Not only was petitioning the government to lift the tariffs consuming an inordinate amount of NAOOA’s resources, it often seemed we were tilting at windmills, which was tremendously frustrating because we know the tariffs were harmful to our overall mission to grow consumption.

Once the tariffs were lifted, however, we were able focus on more-productive activities, starting with the approval of a new strategic plan. We started the strategic planning process early in 2021, guided by public relations firm Hillenby, soliciting input from all members and from a smaller working group representing a broad swath of association members. In the plan, we affirmed these core objectives:

• Increase consumption of all olive oil grades across the entire category—retail, foodservice and bulk

• Serve as a uniting force for the industry, including outside our membership

• Be viewed as an authoritative and trusted voice for olive oil

• Tell the unique story of olive oil

• Create a more inclusive association that reflects the breadth of the industry

Toward the objective of creating a more inclusive association, as of Jan. 1, 2022, the NAOOA agreed to license the name “Extra Virgin Alliance” from an association of that name and partnered with its founder to be the director of the NAOOA’s new Extra Virgin Alliance Specialty Olive Oil Section. Membership in this section will be open to oils that meet a set of curated quality characteristics and have interesting stories to tell.

We are confident this section will also help us educate consumers about what makes olive oil special. The new section has also already attracted several new members to the NAOOA.

To better address the needs of a different segment of the market, we also created a Foodservice/Bulk Committee which we also hope will be successful in growing our tent.

On the public affairs front, the NAOOA reopened discussions with the American Olive Oil Producers Association and together we are close to being able to file an aligned petition with FDA for the creation of national standard—something the NAOOA has been trying to do for decades. In addition, NAOOA has leveraged the better relations with the domestic producer industry to garner support for the creation of a research and promotion order. We have a working draft of a petition we hope to file this year with USDA, incorporating feedback both from domestic producers and from USDA representatives with whom we have consulted.

The NAOOA also conducted an extensive consumer research study in September/October last year to provide the association and its members with timely insights into consumer perceptions and reactions to various strategic messaging in the post-Covid-lockdown period. The study was made possible thanks to important input from the Communications Committee as well as Hillenby (and financial contributions from FoodEx Morocco).

To defend the category against damaging attacks and misinformation, the NAOOA continued its efforts to push back against fake news and unfair advertising, including efforts that resulted in corrective edits to publications such as Consumer Labs and the New York Post and recommendations from the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division recommending that a social media darling olive oil company cease and desist from disparaging the entire olive oil category in order to promote its own brand.

Finally, in some late-breaking news, as you are probably aware. much of the fake news about olive oil quality that we find on the internet can be traced back to the sensationalist and flawed UC Davis reports from 2010-11, which were used to support bogus claims that as much as 70% of olive oil is adulterated. I am pleased to report that as of this month, we have persuaded UC Davis Olive Center to take those reports down from their website. I am hopeful this is a signal of a new more positive era.

In short, at NAOOA, we continue to fight the good fight to ensure there is olive oil in every pot!

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • •