Typically pitted ripe (black) olives are sold in cans but green olives and specialty olives (e.g., Kalamata) are in jars.

Is this due to properties of the olives and different storage needs?

  • I think you're starting from a false premise. My impression (which I'll have to check) is that smaller quantities are sold in cans or plastic pouches and larger quantities in jars, which would tend to support GeneratorHalf's hypothesis. Dec 20, 2011 at 9:54
  • 1
    They don't. It must be coincidence that this has happened where you live. I have seen all kinds of olives in all kinds of packages (jars, small cans, big cans, tubs, canisters, small wooden barrels...) and there is no difference in taste.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 20, 2011 at 11:47
  • I don't think it's coincidence - I realized the same thing at walmart today. Start typing "why do green olives come in jars and black..." into Google, and it'll actually suggest this question for you. Lots of other people must have wondered. Oct 5, 2014 at 1:49
  • Here we get all colours of olives in all form of packaging. Greek green olives in cans, Greek black olives in jars, mixed olives in plastic pouch. All forms of packaging can be high heat treated now, so it mostly comes down to marketing
    – TFD
    Oct 5, 2014 at 2:47

3 Answers 3


It's for marketing purposes. People who can see the food inside the jar are more likely to buy it. Subconsciously a tall jar full of olives is more pleasing to the eyes than a can which is full to an unknown percentage. Another good thing about a glass container is that it is resealable, so the olives remain fresh longer.

So why don't they do this with black olives? Jars are more expensive than cans or other cheap plastic containers. Green olives seem to be more popular in american cuisine than black olives. Companies have more budget to afford more expensive packaging for green olives than for black olives. It also depends on where the olives come from - I eat a lot of olives from a niche Greek grocery store, and all of the olives (green or black) are in plastic containers, most likely because of the economics of the region from which they were imported.

  • 1
    What evidence do you base your theory on? What you say kinda makes sense but there are lots assumptions here... Why wouldn't a store brand/cheap brand like Great Value, sell green olives in cans, if it's so much cheaper? And who says black olives in a jar wouldn't look awesome, and packaging them in a jar would increase sales? Personally I think black looks always pretty appealing (the color's so pure and also I like Metal ,!..!), much more than olive green, which looks brownish and wilted? Oct 5, 2014 at 1:55

I would speculate that typically, black olives are consumed all at one time, as they are usually an ingredient in something. Green olives, however, are often consumed only a few at a time as a snack or in a drink, so being able to reseal the jar is much more useful.


If I understand this article correctly, it's because of how the two different types of olives are made, and packaged safely.

Most olives are green at first and then turn black/purple when they are ripe. Most black olives that are sold at the grocery store have been ripened artificially with certain substances/chemicals. These chemicals apparently are a good breeding ground for some bacteria and diseases. So these artificially ripened black olives need to be cooked for a while at a certain temperature after being packaged in their container - a process that only metal cans allow for, not glass jars.

I suppose there is room for different kinds of olives and different processes, which is why you'll find exceptions to this in niche stores, but the commonly available, non-specialty olives are probably packaged like that for this reason.

There is another article that's sort of confusing though, that validates the whole food safety issue.

  • I've had artificially blackened olives (colored, I don't know about "ripened") from a glass.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 5, 2014 at 8:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.