Australian Star Knows No Boundaries

Rob McGavin has led Boundary Bend to win over increasingly educated Australian consumers. With his company's expansion to the world's largest market, the odds of finding award-winning Cobram Estate olive oils at a store near you are getting better every day.

Boundary Bend CEO Rob McGavin accepted an award at the 2015 New York International Olive Oil Competition (photo NYIOOC)
Jun. 8, 2016
By Wendy Logan
Boundary Bend CEO Rob McGavin accepted an award at the 2015 New York International Olive Oil Competition (photo NYIOOC)

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Back in February, Australia’s Financial Review posted a story by Mark Abernethy that in just four short months would prove to be prophetic. In All Olive Oils Are Not Created Equal,” Abernethy addressed the quandary faced by an Australian indus­try burst­ing onto the EVOO scene with excep­tion­ally high-qual­ity prod­ucts and a grow­ing export busi­ness, but a chal­lenge in mag­ne­tiz­ing its home turf con­sumers.

Australians love it when one of their own takes on the world and wins.- Mark Abernethy, Financial Review

In the story, Boundary Bend’s CEO and major­ity stake­holder Rob McGavin said, It’s a really tough indus­try. Australian grow­ers can pro­duce the high­est grade extra vir­gin olive oil, but it’s hard to get past the label­ing and mar­ket­ing of the European imports.” He noted that by rote, the Euro-brands were what con­sumers had come to expect and seek when pur­chas­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

Though Spain, Italy, and Greece tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated the trade, Abernethy saw the tide turn­ing. Australia’s quandary of very high qual­ity yet rel­a­tively low domes­tic sales might turn to its advan­tage. Australians love it when one of their own takes on the world and wins,” Abernathy wrote.

After another year’s world­wide haul of top awards and test­ing results have again put Boundary Bend’s Cobram Estate olive oils at the top of the charts, the pref­er­ence pen­du­lum has swung firmly to Australia’s favor,” said writer Sue Neales in the Australian Business Review. Her June 6 story, Aussie Grower Boundary Bend Olives Eyes the Big Stage” put the excla­ma­tion point on Abernethy’s pre­dic­tion. As of today, Boundary Bend Olives is a $200 mil­lion com­pany that sup­plies its coun­try­men with 65 per­cent of the mar­ket in high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.

The move away from the imports has been informed by a sharp increase in recent years in edu­ca­tion about the cat­e­gory of this prized com­mod­ity. Growing demand from health-con­scious Australian con­sumers for fresh, local extra vir­gin olive oil, cou­pled with test­ing results that have con­tin­ued to indi­cate that many imported brands that claimed to be extra vir­gin were adul­ter­ated with addi­tives and cut with low-grade cot­ton­seed and canola oils, has turned the tide. And now Boundary Bend is eye­ing the U.S. con­sumer.

The com­pany has expanded its oper­a­tions to California over the past two years, with its U.S.-produced Cobram Estate EVOO already avail­able in 1,000 retail out­lets. McGavin told Neale It’s only a small mar­ket and invest­ment for us at this stage — less than 4 per­cent of our assets — but it’s got huge poten­tial if we can estab­lish our­selves as a trusted reli­able brand. The mis­trust of food prod­ucts in the U.S. and the obses­sion with proven prove­nance and qual­ity is mas­sive.”

Though he’s been approached by Chinese investors look­ing to pur­chase the com­pany, McGavin said the cul­tural integrity of his busi­ness comes first. Why would we sell to an over­seas com­pany? As soon as we look just like any other for­eign owned big cor­po­ra­tion, I think we are lost. I can’t see any upside.”


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