Table olives are a product of great importance for the agrofood business in Greece since more than 62,000 producers are involved in the sector. With a total market share of more than 450 million Euros, table olives account for 9.2% of the Greek agricultural exports, putting Greece in the second position of exports in the international table olives market. They are considered a food product of high nutritional value, and their consumption has been associated with a great number of beneficial effects such as protection against various diseases, enhancement of the antioxidant defense of the human body and good functioning of the cardiovascular system.
Several studies have demonstrated that these beneficial effects can be attributed to the presence of various bioactives as well as different microorganisms such as:
It is crucial to point out that the type of processing greatly affects the final concentration of all these functional ingredients as well as the type and the final population of the probiotic microorganisms. Other factors that are of importance regarding the nutritional value and the microbial load of the olives include the cultivar, the degree of maturation at the time of harvesting and the agricultural practices.
Since the microbiome on table olive drupe surface may play an important role in the downstream natural fermentation utilized in the Greek-style table olive processing, great focus is given in the studies contacted at Perrotis College. The evolution of the microbiome during the natural fermentation of Chalkidiki cultivar Green Olive was studied as a part of an M.Sc. thesis. The findings have been presented at the 2nd International Symposium on Olive organized by Yale University. The advanced laboratory metagenomics approach that was applied for the first time on such products offer valuable knowledge that allow the identification of unique strains of micro-organisms likely to be associated with the particular geographic location of the olive groves, as well as the cultivation practices.
This knowledge will enable producers to create optimum fermentation conditions resulting in better organoleptic characteristics of table olives and increase their nutritional and economic value.
Dr. Kiki Zinoviadou
Chair of the M.Sc. program New Food Product & Business Development