E.U. Interreg MED Programme | ARISTOIL Project Meeting | Málaga, Spain

6-7 November, 2018 | 4th Partnership Meeting | Steering Committee (CY)

Hosting Partner: Diputación de Málaga

The Interreg Mediterranean Programme supports projects in the region that develop innovative concepts, practices, and the sustainable growth and use of resources. The specific goal of the ARISTOIL Project is the “reinforcement of Mediterranean olive oil sector competitiveness through development and application of innovative production and quality control methodologies related to olive oil health protecting properties”, and includes partners from Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Spain.

Following visits to Greece, Cyprus and Italy, the Aristoil Project Steering Committee’s last conference and meeting for 2018 was held in Spain, and was hosted by Spanish project representative, the Diputación de Málaga, provincial government of the province of Málaga in Andalusia, Spain.

Steering Committee members for Cyprus for the ARISTOIL Programme are Athan Gadanidis, Dir. of ARISTOLEO, and Melina Nicolaides, Dir. of ACTIVATE.

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Interreg is one of the key instruments of the European Union supporting cooperation across borders through project funding. Its aim is to jointly tackle common challenges and find shared solutions in fields such as health, environment, research, education, transport, sustainable energy and more.

Interreg is one of the two goals of the EU Cohesion Policy in the 2014-2020 period and it is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The ERDF is a fund allocated by the EU aiming to help redress the main regional imbalances in the Union. It aims to allow less advantageous regions to start attracting private sector investments, and create jobs on their own. It also aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting imbalances between its regions and focuses its investments on several key priority areas, known as ‘thematic concentration’; one example of a theme is ‘Innovation and Research’.

Interreg has a budget of EUR 10.1 billion invested in the several cooperation programmes responsible for managing project funding, and has three types of programmes: Cross border (60); Transnational (15); Interregional (4).

Interreg Europe helps regional and local governments across Europe to develop and deliver better policy. By creating an environment and opportunities for sharing solutions, it aims to ensure that government investment, innovation and implementation efforts all lead to integrated and sustainable impact for people and place.

The Interreg MED Programme gathers 13 European countries from the Northern shore of the Mediterranean that work together for sustainable growth in the region. The main objective of the Programme is to promote sustainable growth in the Mediterranean area by supporting projects that develop innovative concepts and practices, promote a reasonable use of resources, and support social integration through an integrated and territorially-based cooperation approach.

The ARISTOIL Project: Why & How

The olive tree, native to the Mediterranean basin has been utilized by people of the region as far back as the 8th millennium BC and archeological evidence has shown that by 6000 BC olives were being pressed into olive oil. Today, 95% of the world's olive oil is produced in the Mediterranean; mainly in Greece, where the Peloponnese which produces 65% of Greek olive oil; the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia in Italy; and the Andalusia province in Spain, which is also the biggest olive growing area on the planet. The composition of olive oil varies depending of many factors, including the cultivar type, altitude, time of harvest and extraction process.

The main common challenge for all participating countries in the ARISTOIL project is that the average price of olive oil is low in comparison to the production cost and moreover, there is strong competition with the non-Mediterranean seed oil sector. The producers of the Mediterranean are compelled to either reduce the cost of production or to increase the value or the demand for olive oil in the international market in order to maintain the viability and sustainability of olive tree cultivation and olive oil production. 

The main objective of the Interreg Med ARISTOIL Programme is the reinforcement of Mediterranean olive oil sector competitiveness through development and application of innovative production and quality control methodologies leading to olive oil with enhanced health protecting properties (as recognized by EU 432/2012 regulation). The development of a Mediterranean Cluster for olive oil producers and businesses, combined with specialized training, development of innovative methods for identifying the phenolic ingredients of the oil, as well as providing oil producers with support by special product certification, is the strategy which will lead to the project’s objective.

High Phenolic olive oil is olive oil with a high concentration of oleocanthal and oleacein.

The expected results of the project are:

  • Reinforcement of production of innovative olive oil product 

    A comparison of available analysis methods for olive oil ingredients and optimization of the most suitable methods will be completed throughout the project. The optimization of methods will accompanied by the development of a tool which can be used by the producers for fast oil analysis in the field in order to know if it is the right moment to collect the oil and achieve the optimum taste and phenolic ingredients. All relevant information will be simplified and provided to the producers through a user-friendly Guide for production of olive oil.

  • Training for over 3000 olive oil producers and millers

    A total of 3230 olive oil producers and millers will be trained through the organization of 72 training courses and seminars for olive oil producers and olive millers throughout the project implementation. Training and seminars will be dedicated to inform producers and olive millers on innovative production methods and tools which are at their disposal.

  • Consumer awareness-raising

    Consumers should be informed on the health benefits of olive oil high in phenolic content according to EU 432/2012 regulation. A series of info days (44) organized in the participating countries are dedicated to enhance the knowledge capacity of stakeholders and consumers.

  • Development of a standardized procedure for Olive oil “Health Claim” certification

    The increase of the Mediterranean olive oil sector competitiveness lies upon the construction of a “high quality” brand for olive oil produced in this region meeting minimum specific standards. The development of standardized procedures for certification and the creation of two certification centers in Spain and Greece covering the needs of all the Med area will ensure the final consumer on the product quality.

  • Development of Mediterranean Olive Oil cluster of key actors

    A Mediterranean Cluster of olive oil sector key actors will be developed aiming to facilitate networking and cooperation across the Mediterranean region. An e-hub will support the communication and exchange of experience among the key actors. Information on new market opportunities, exhibitions, seminars, demand and other ideas will flow through this hub.

Moreover, the ARISTOIL project will suggest solutions to existing problems, trying to combine the expertise of the scientific partners. Main problems identified are:

1. No officially recognized method for measurement of the olive oil phenolic ingredients that are responsible for the health-protecting properties and for this reason there is no commonly accepted way for monitoring the quality regarding the health claim.

2. Producers’ lack of knowledge on olive oil production that fulfill the health claim criteria because there is also lack of robust data concerning the agronomic and processing factors that influence the levels of the phenolic ingredients in olive oil.


Consequently, what the partners are called to do is to optimize and cross validate the best available methods of chemical analysis (NMR, LCMS, colorimetry) offering new commonly accepted tools for olive oil quality monitoring. The analysis methods will be adopted by two certification centers in Greece and Spain. The analytical methods will be applied to the analysis of 3,000-5,000 samples of olive oil in order to investigate the most critical factors, for ex. variety, harvest time, processing parameters.
Moreover, a Guideline document will be prepared for producers to be followed for preparation of extra virgin olive oil with high phenolic content; these compounds are recognized by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and embodied in the 432/2012 European Regulation, which includes the health claims associated with the consumption of food components. The parameters that embody the production of extra virgin olive oil with high phenolic content are associated to genetic (olive tree cultivar), agronomic practices (such as water availability, time of harvest) and technical factors (olive oil extraction and milling process) etc.

The long-term objective is to provide Mediterranean olive oil producers the potential to increase the value of their product, to increase the knowledge capacity of olive oil producers, and ultimately, increasing the demand for high quality olive oil.

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Málaga is a municipality and the capital of the Province of Málaga in Andalusia, Spain. With a population of nearly 600,000, it is the second-most populous city of the community of Andalusia and the sixth-largest in the country, and lies on the Costa del Sol of the Mediterranean, about 100 kms east of the Strait of Gibraltar, and about 130 km north of Africa. The history of Málaga spans over 2,800 years, founded by the Phoenicians as the town of Malaka around 770 BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.

Spain’s geography and climate of extensive mountain slopes, mild or cold winters, and long, hot summers, are ideal for olive cultivation. Producing about half the world’s total olive oil, of which about 46% is exported, Spain is the world’s leading olive oil producer and exporter. More than 350 million olives are grown in Spain, with most of the olive farms located in Andalusia. Andalusia is home to over 170 million olive trees, more than half of Spain’s total. These huge managed forests have been tended by the generations of families, and in this region 35% of farm laborers work with olives. The quality of the oil is influenced by factors such as weather conditions, soil, type of tree, age of the tree, variety, harvesting method, etc. There are more than 250 varieties of olives trees in Spain although the most common are Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina and Cornicabra, which are grown in this area of southern Spain.

In recent years Spain has come to be considered by some as at the forefront of trends for the future of the international olive-growing industry. This has been achieved by the use of scientific progress and experimentation, which has raised the quality and diversity of Spanish olive oils to the highest levels in its long olive-oil producing history which began during the Roman domination of Spain. Today, advanced growing systems, drip irrigation, integrated production and new growing practices and innovative extraction technology, have led to higher quality and diversity, and more quantity production.

Alongside the meetings of the Steering Committee, the hosts of the conference also arranged Study Visits. These included the facilities of the world single largest producer of olive oil (DCOOP) located in the area of Antequera, in the province of Málaga; and to a partner mill, including its I+D+I (research, innovation and development department) and quality department.

DCOOP is an agrifood cooperative of over 75000 families and farmers that place an emphasis on technological innovation among other things. Their vision is to be a leading agrifood corporation, with a presence in all markets, connecting the products that are produced by their farmers with consumers around the world. In Europe DCOOP exports the products of the group’s member cooperatives to the following countries: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.

In our tour of the facilities, we were shown the various stages of the production and olive milling process, from the arrival of the olive fruits after harvesting, to cleaning (air blowing or washing), transfer, crushing (to make paste), malaxation (shaking), separation, storage in decanters for 48-72 hrs, Bottega storage for up to one month under temperature conditions controlled in order to avoid oxidation. This oil is then sent to a partner Coop (Mercaoleo Bottling company, part of the olive oils business line DCOOP Group) to be given classification and packaged. At this second location, where we were not allowed to take photos, boasts up-to-date bottling technology; here, all the bottling (plastic, glass, tins), packaging and labelling process occurs, all computerized and fully automated. Here, the Spanish olive oil is packaged according to its category (Extra Virgin olive oil, Virgin olive oil, and olive oil), and also sold under global brand names, from Lidl in Europe to the Pompeian brand sold in Walmart, USA.

The on-site trips provided an interesting view of ‘efficient’ olive oil production on an industrial level, and was a distinct contrast to our traditional vision of a cultural practice and heritage that has existed throughout the Mediterranean since antiquity.


ARISTOIL is coordinated by EUROPEAN GROUP of TERRITORIAL COOPERATION (EGTC) Efxini Poli (Lead Partner) with partners from Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Spain and the total budget is Euros 2.008.200,00.

Lead Partner
EGTC Efxini Poli – SolidarCity NETWORK, Greece/Attica

Project Partners
PP1. Euro Mediterranean Center for the Sustainable Development, Italy/Sicilia
PP2. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece/Attica
PP3. Larnaca-Famagusta District Development Agency, Cyprus
PP5. University of Split – Croatia/Jadranska
PP6. University of Cordoba – Spain/Andalusia
PP7. Free Municipal Consortium of Ragusa, Italy/Sicilia
PP8. Region of Peloponnese, Greece/Peloponnese
PP9. Kostelenos George Nurseries, Greece/Attica (Associate Partner)
PP10. Diputación de Málaga – Spain/Andalusia
PP11. Puglia Region, Italy/Puglia (Associate Partner)
PP12. Institute for Andriatic Crops and Karst Reclamation, Croatia/Jadranska (Associate Partner)
PP13. Association of Olive Growers Vela Luka, Croatia/Jadranska (Associate Partner)
PP14. Carcabuey Health Ventures, Spain/Andalusia (Associate Partner)
PP15. Panhellenic Union of Olive Mills, Greece/Central Macedonia (Associate Partner)
PP16. American Farm School Post-Secondary Educational and Training Association, Greece/Central Macedonia (Associate Partner)


Banner Image: View of the mountain slope olive orchard landscape, typical of the Antequera area in Andalusia.