Supermarkets in Spain are sealing bottles of oil, following price hikes and an increase in thefts, reports Reuters.
Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil
Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and normally supplies around 40% of the world’s production. However, the heat waves that hit the country in spring, when the olive trees were just blooming, and the prolonged drought that followed reduced olive production.
A one-liter bottle of extra virgin olive oil sells in some supermarkets for 14.5 euros ($15.77), prompting retailers to include olive oil in the category of products for which security labels are installed, alongside beverages, cosmetics and household appliances.
“We are seeing a major increase in shoplifting. Olive oil becomes an ideal product to steal“, said Ruben Navarro, general manager of the Tu Super supermarket chain, which has 30 stores in the Spanish region of Andalusia.
In the last two years, the price of olive oil in Spain has increased by 150%, due to extreme weather phenomena, and criminal networks steal the oil to resell it, explained Navarro.
The bottles are sealed and locked
Since September, the Tu Super supermarket chain has been sealing the five liter bottles of olive oil and keeping them locked on the shelves to prevent theft.
“It’s an extreme measure, crazy, but it worked“, claims Navarro.
Tu Super is not the only one to tighten security measures: in some Carrefour and Auchan supermarkets in Madrid, one-liter bottles of olive oil have security labels that are then removed by employees.
STC, a Spanish company that offers anti-theft solutions to retailers, has seen a 12-fold increase in orders from supermarkets this summer for olive oil bottle protectors.
Usually families in Spain buy olive oil in bulk for cooking. As among the largest global consumers of olive oil, the Spanish have already reduced their consumption: between September 2022 and September 2023, sales of extra virgin olive oil fell by 17%, according to NielsenIQ data.
Thefts increased by 30%
The Spanish business organization CEOE claims that last year repeated thefts from retailers increased by 30% and this year by another 12%.
In Spain, the theft of products that cost less than 400 euros is not punished, if there is no recurrence.
Thieves take advantage of the small number of employees in stores, claims Navarro, who draws attention to the thieves’ pressure on employees, which exacerbates the labor shortage.
“Our own employees are living in fear after this wave of robberies…eventually some are even quitting their jobsNavarro said.
According to the latest estimates of the European Commission, high prices for olive oil will continue in the next season, forcing consumers to reduce their consumption of this food product.
Europe is the region responsible for two-thirds of the world’s olive oil production and also a large consumer. Over the past year, the price of a liter of olive oil has doubled after drought affected olive trees in the main producing countries.