`McGavin Vents to Morning Herald

Australia / NZ

McGavin Vents to Morning Herald

Aug. 3, 2015
Wendy Logan

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When your company’s extra vir­gin olive oils con­tinue to gar­ner top hon­ors at com­pe­ti­tions across the globe, it should be your right­ful time to raise a tast­ing cup and revel in your suc­cess. Or so you’d think.

Australia’s Bound­ary Bend har­vests a hit parade of vari­eties favored for extra vir­gin olive oil — Arbe­quina, Hoji­blanca, Koronekei, Picual, Lec­cina, and sev­eral more — from 2.5 mil­lion trees. Their state-of-the-art pro­duc­tion prac­tices have led them to extra­or­di­nary yields and world­wide acclaim.

The estate pro­duces 10.5 mil­lion liters annu­ally of some of the high­est qual­ity EVOOs on the mar­ket, win­ning at national and inter­na­tional tast­ing com­pe­ti­tions includ­ing the pres­ti­gious New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion (NYIOOC), where Cobram Estate has earned more awards than any other brand.

But in a recent inter­view with Australia’s Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, on the front page of the busi­ness sec­tion, McGavin — while appar­ently hav­ing posted a record har­vest just last month — appears restrained even as he smiles.

We want peo­ple to sell a prod­uct and call it what it is,” McGavin was quoted as say­ing. If it’s refined olive oil, call it that. If it’s extra vir­gin, make sure it is. And try to get us access to where 70 per­cent of the world’s olive oil is con­sumed, which is Europe.”

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Cobram Estate’s own web­site tells the story of McGavin’s frus­tra­tion in a snap­shot. Nav­i­gate to a tab, Stock­ists,” and a map shows the retail loca­tions for the company’s brands. To the far left, the United States and Canada are sparsely dot­ted, while to the very far right, sev­eral oth­ers mark loca­tions in Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, and Aus­tralia. The entirety of Europe and South Amer­ica is wholly blank.

As crit­i­cally applauded as his brands are, McGavin can’t seem to get them in front of many of the world’s con­sumers with­out giv­ing away the tree, so to speak.

Despite the Euro-bar­ri­ers, the Aus­tralian com­pany and its prod­ucts are begin­ning to find a firmer foot­ing in the U.S. mar­ket, where pro­duc­tion by all Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers com­bined doesn’t match the out­put of Bound­ary Bend. Ear­lier this year, the com­pany set up a pro­duc­tion facil­ity near Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia.

Accord­ing to Fair­way Mar­ket, a U.S. retailer that buys and backs the Cobram prod­uct and oth­ers from Down Under, fine olive oil from the Aus­tralian con­ti­nent is just exquis­ite.” And with sig­nif­i­cant short­ages of olive oil yield hit­ting the open mar­ket from tra­di­tion­ally high-pro­duc­tion coun­tries like Italy (due to a per­sis­tent and dam­ag­ing blight) and smaller deficits for the world’s top exporter, Spain, McGavin is per­haps jus­ti­fi­ably out­raged that he can’t sell his finely crafted, authen­tic and effi­ciently milled prod­uct, in all its appar­ent abun­dance, to a mar­ket already ram­pant with coun­ter­feits.

In 2010, McGavin told Olive Oil Times’ Sarah Schwartz, I think Aus­tralia is piv­otal to the future of the olive indus­try. There are going to be some pretty major advances in the South­ern Hemi­sphere in the next 10 years as far as our posi­tion in the world mar­ket.” Five years later, McGav­in’s pre­dic­tions are prov­ing to be accu­rate while for­mi­da­ble obsta­cles remain for the com­pany to max­i­mize its global cache.

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