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Refined olive oil has traditionally retailed at much lower prices than extra virgin olive oil

Retail prices of refined olive oil have seen successive skyrocketing increases in recent weeks as the sector’s supply crisis grows.

The average price of own-label olive oil (one litre) across the UK’s biggest supermarkets was £7.38 in the week of 18 April, according to the Grocer’s Key Items Value (KVI) price tracker.

This was an increase of 4% month on month and 1% week on week. Prices were 42% more expensive compared with the same period last year.

Olive oil prices have been climbing for well over a year due to shortages across the Mediterranean, which has been struggling with extreme levels of drought.

This initially affected the extra virgin olive oil category more than it did refined olive oil, which is lighter in colour and flavour and typically retails at lower prices.

But short supply of lampante grade oil, used to make refined olive oil, has forced retailers to up prices of refined oil more frequently in recent months, according to Filippo Berio boss Walter Zanre.

“As a consequence, the differential between extra virgin olive oil and refined olive oil has virtually disappeared,” Zanre said, with the latter now “only slightly priced below” the former across the major grocers.

Aldi alone upped the price of its own-label Solesta olive oil up by 7% last week, with a one-litre bottle now costing £6.49 – a 45% increase from last year – according to The Grocer’s data.

This followed two price hikes in March, and one in mid-February, when it was priced at £4.99. By comparison, Aldi’s one-litre extra virgin olive oil now sells for £6.79.

Aldi and fellow discounter Lidl remain the cheapest at £6.49, although Lidl too upped its price by £0.20 since last month, the KVI data shows.

Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco and Asda all price their refined olive oil at £7.80, after the latter increased its price from £6.85 last month. Waitrose’s retails for £7.50.

The sharp rises are forcing shoppers away from the refined olive oil category, Zanre claimed.

“As supermarket contracts have been renewed, there has been significant shelf-price inflation since the new year,” he said.

“What we are seeing is a larger decline in the consumption of refined olive oil as it becomes more expensive.”

“Extra virgin olive oil is proving to be much more resilient.”

However, Zanre noted olive oil household penetration had generally fallen, with shoppers trading down to sunflower and vegetable oil instead.

The Grocer reported last week that vegetable oil prices were also set to rise this year as UK production of oilseed rape has taken a hit due to extreme flooding.

UK yields of rapeseed oil, which is widely used not just for domestic consumption but also by restaurants such as fish & chip shops and catering companies, are expected to be as much as 38% lower this year compared with 2023.