Case study - Oleoestepa


Oleoestepa is an Andalusian cooperative specialised in the production of extra-virgin olive oil. Established in 1986, it unites over seven thousand farmers who cultivate olives covering around 62 thousand hectares. The Estepa and Puente Genil regions, home to the cooperative, are renowned for their high quality of oil, attributed to the variety of olive trees, a favourable climate, and historical know-how. In 2004, this area was awarded a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union.  


Why Japan 

Oleoestepa started exporting to Japan twenty years ago, targeting the country for its high demand for premium extra-virgin olive oil. The cooperative has since become well-established in the country and is now recognised for its commitment to quality. Over the last few years, it has also been a regular exhibitor at Foodex Japan. 

Interested in enhancing his understanding of Japan, Mr. David Aguilar, Specialist in Asian Markets at Oleoestepa, applied in 2019 to the Get Ready for Japan Training (GRFJ), managed by the EU-Japan Centre. For thirty years GRFJ has provided European companies the knowledge and tools to succeed in Japan. Committed to continuously improving and staying up to date with the latest business trends in Japan, the programme is designed to equip EU managers with the skills needed to thrive in this exciting market. 

Challenges and competition in the Japanese market 

Navigating the Japanese market presents some challenges, especially for European companies unfamiliar with local practices. On top of that, the market is competitive.  

A notable challenge is the Japanese market peculiarity, which presents little fluctuation in prices or salaries. Resistance to price increases and product innovation complicates market entry. 

 Additionally, a shrinking population leads to intensified competition and challenges in breaking into a food sector already dominated by a handful of large corporations. 

Advice for companies that want to break into the Japanese market  

Companies aiming to enter the Japanese market should brace for a long-term commitment, recognizing that building relationships may take several years. The GRFJ training  helped overcome some of these issues. 

Patience is crucial. Success hinges on presenting a high-quality product with attention to details, in order to meet Japanese importers high standards. Finally, a crucial advice is not to give up. Persistence is key; initial contacts and sales can lead to gradual, sustained growth.  

While challenging, the Japanese market is ultimately rewarding, offering valuable lessons and opportunities for growth. 


Article based on an interview with David Aguilar, Specialist in Asian Markets at Oleoestepa. Participant to GRFJ 2019. 

Published in April 2024. 

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