Over the last decade, fresh olive and antipasti bars have become a staple in the fresh and prepared sides of supermarkets.
You can thank two big trends for that, according to Zachary Tackett, marketing coordinator for DeLallo Authentic Italian Foods.
“First, consumers are aware, now more than ever, of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and how these foods translate into healthy snacking,” he says. “Second, the popularity of ethnic foods has increased consumer awareness and a demand for olives and antipasti that was unknown previously.”
It also helps that olives and antipasti are naturally paired with specialty cheeses and salami — two other areas that have grown recently.
DeLallo maintains success with innovation; consistently introducing new olives produced in the communities of countries are growing in popularity. “In addition, we focus on mixed olive medleys to offer customers more variety in fewer items,” Tackett says “This accommodates bars that are limited by space and size.”
DeLallo helped start the trend of olive bars in US supermarkets; a fact readily admitted even my others in the industry. “We were quite happy to see one of the biggest operators in the US had started this shift,” says. David Dottorini, export representative for Ficacci Olive Company, just east of Rome. “It Italy, the trends shift in such a way that it can be a trendsetter.”
One major European trend in olives that Dottorini says he expects to shift to the US soon involves the packaging and transportation of fresh olives. Many European retailers are choosing to have their olives delivered without brine, in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).
The benefit is fairly simple: removing the brine means less weight, which obviously means less cost. “When you import olives, you’re also importing the brine, which can double the cost,” says Dottorini. “Modified atmosphere packaging allows us to lower the importing cost.”
Ficacci has already started this shipping method with H-E-B in Mexico and is in talks with HEB’s Texas division.
Since there are just two ways to slow the fermentation of olives — brining or chilling — this method of importing requires distributors and retailers to have designated chilled space for olive shipments.
“Not everyone is immediately ready for this,” Dottorini says. “You don’t always have space in a chilled warehouse to place the olives. It requires some planning, just like anything else, but it can really reduce cost.”
Either way, he says, fresh olives provide an increased taste profile compared to their jarred counterparts; a taste good enough to offset any complaints about shelf life.
“On the grocery side, you can have about three years of shelf life whereas it’s between six and eight months when they are fresh,” Dottorini says. “But the consumers will go more for a product with a better taste. They are fresh and crunchy. I always say, the shelf life may be six months, but once you open the package, they’re gone in five minutes.”
DeLallo — which counts its Calamata and California Sevillano olives among its best sellers —says pairing consistent quality with high-level food safety and service is its key to success. The company also stresses innovation, which is evident in its work with antipasti.
“It is growing with regional items that have previously gone unnoticed,” Tackett says. “We are also offering salads that include cheeses. This allows the antipasti to not only stand on its own as a well-rounded appetizer, but also allows it to serve as a specialty gourmet ingredient in everyday creations like pizza, pasta salads, hummus dips and more.”