AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

2023 NAOOA Report

Mouna Aissaoui

I’m pleased to address you for the first time as the newly elected chairperson of the NAOOA. I’m proud to be the first woman who has held this role and look forward to the challenges in the year to come.

The association is on the cusp of achieving long-sought-after success on some of our principal strategic objectives. Last July, we filed a new petition for a standard of identity for olive oils and olive pomace oils with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Our last three attempts at filing a petition languished without any action by FDA. This time, however, we are optimistic that things are different. Thanks to our efforts to build bridges with the domestic producer industry over the past few years by focusing on our common interests, we succeeded in filing this petition jointly with the American Olive Oil Producers Association and Deoleo (who had resigned from NAOOA in 2021). The joint nature of the petition gives us a far greater chance of convincing FDA to commence the rulemaking process.

Another reason we feel the petition stands a good chance of success is that FDA has been under intense public scrutiny recently over failures in how it administered its food programs (as opposed to drugs), which many have been characterized by inaction and incompetence. As a result, there appears to be pressure on FDA to accomplish positive things in 2023. The pending olive oil petition would be a big success for FDA in addressing the confusion and fear of being cheated that concerns many olive oil consumers. In fact, during the last week of February, the petitioners received some encouraging news: a detailed letter from FDA laying out additional requests for information and a suggestion for a meeting with FDA administrators. We remain hopeful that FDA will agree to commence a rulemaking and publish a proposed olive oil standard of identity in the Federal Register by the end of the year.

In the past twelve months, we’ve also ramped up our efforts to put together a viable petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service to establish a research and promotion board for olive oil. Like the standard of identity petition, this effort has also involved reaching across the country to get supporters among the domestic production industry, which is important from USDA’s perspective in deciding whether to move forward. Similarly, we’re hopeful a petition can be filed in the first half of the year.

As a product category, olive oil continues to enjoy the fruits of research extolling its health benefits. Starbucks’ recent announcement of its new products that incorporate extra virgin olive oil has resulted in nearly unprecedented positive publicity about EVOO. In creating a separate section within the NAOOA last year for specialty olive oil oils, which we have called the Extra Virgin Alliance, our objectives were to promote the specialty olive oil category in a way that will at the same time educate consumers about olive oil in general and simultaneously promote and up-sell the category at large, as has been done with other categories that developed specialty niches such as wine, cheese, beer, chocolate and coffee. It’s ironic that Starbucks—the company that drove the premiumization of the coffee category—has “crossed over” to help accelerate that effort in the olive oil category.

Among the other objectives in creating the specialty section was to help promote NAOOA as a representative of the whole industry, not just of the big brand or commodity segments as has been its reputation. Not only will this help expand membership (which it has done, with approximately 10 new members joining as a result of the establishment of the new section, including the leading Italian brand Monini and American producer McEvoy Ranch), but it also helps in efforts to build bridges between to segments of the domestic producers, which is important to NAOOA’s primary strategic initiatives, the success of which will depend domestic support.

The bad news for the olive oil industry this year stems from the devastating drought in southern Europe in particular last year, which has severely impacted production–estimated to be down by as much as 25% over the prior year. As a result, the industry is struggling with cost pressures and potentially limited supply. It’s situations like this that make establishing a research and promotion order all the more important. Had the order been in place, the industry would have the funding to explain the situation to consumers and better educate the consumer as to olive oil’s true value relative to the cost.

Indeed, one of the olive oil “values” of which consumers remain relatively unaware but care deeply about is in fact related to the present drought crisis—climate change and sustainability. With the limited budget available to us, olive oil sustainability, particularly as it relates to other cooking oils, will be a focus of much of the NAOOA’s messaging in 2023 and in years to come. As a permanent crop—indeed, the world’s largest non-tropical permanent crop—the cultivation of olives has several sustainability advantages over seed oil crops which by contrast have shallow roots and must be re-planted every year. The advantages of permanent crops such as olives include carbon sequestration, carbon balance, low water use, limited depletion of soil nutrients and the promotion of biodiversity.

We will continue to develop the olive oil story for American consumers who deserve to know that not only is cooking with olive oil good for them, it’s good for the planet, too.

2023 U.S. Food Import Industry Annual Report

Chairman's Report - John Sessler

North American Olive Oil Association - Mouna Aissaoui

Processed Foods - Brent Danielson

Nut & Agricultural Products - Richard Rosenblatt

National Honey Packers & Dealers - Andy Sargeantson

Regulatory and Trade Issues

Food Importers Facing New Enforcement Environment

Common FSVP-Related Questions



Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
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