Business

California Olive Ranch Looks Abroad

CEO Gregg Kelley called an alliance with producers in Argentina “an opportunity to bring a diverse portfolio to our customers while growing our network of farms and grower partners.”

Nov. 1, 2017
By Joanne Drawbaugh

Recent News

As America’s largest olive oil pro­ducer powers up its har­vesters to comb the neat rows of trees in its Northern California groves, it’s spring in Argentina where the next har­vest is just down the road — 6,000 miles of road.

Our team has trav­eled the globe build­ing long­stand­ing rela­tion­ships in order to garner a broad­ened view of the world of olive oil.- Gregg Kelley

To sat­isfy increas­ing demand and bring the high-qual­ity olive oil tra­di­tion­ally reserved for small oper­a­tions to American con­sumers on a large scale, California Olive Ranch recently announced a part­ner­ship with pro­duc­ers in Argentina to sup­ple­ment the crops grown on COR’s own groves.

CEO Gregg Kelley called the alliance, which COR began explor­ing in 2015, “an oppor­tu­nity to bring a diverse port­fo­lio of qual­ity extra virgin olive oil to our cus­tomers while grow­ing our net­work of farms and grower part­ners.”

While COR’s Lucini Brand has kept its flag­ship Premium Select 100-per­cent Italian, Lucini’s Everyday brand is from Argentina and the com­pany recently debuted its Americas Blend con­tain­ing oils from both hemi­spheres.

Beyond expand­ing COR’s pro­duc­tion capa­bil­i­ties, Kelley explained the goal of the part­ner­ship includes “rais­ing aware­ness around this great fruit by high­light­ing all olive grow­ing regions of the world, from the U.S. to South America to Europe.” To this end, Kelley noted, “Our team has trav­eled the globe, edu­cat­ing our­selves, meet­ing pro­duc­ers, and build­ing long­stand­ing rela­tion­ships in order to garner a broad­ened view of the world of olive oil.”

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VP of production Jim Lipman

According to Kelley, look­ing beyond the coun­tries that EVOO tra­di­tion­ally comes from is the only way to combat rising prices asso­ci­ated with pro­jected increases in global demand. “There are so many untapped olive grow­ing regions around the world, includ­ing India and China,” he told Olive Oil Times.

Argentina pro­duc­ers stood out as attrac­tive poten­tial part­ners, Kelley noted. “Since South America har­vests at a dif­fer­ent time than California, it cre­ates a nat­ural oppor­tu­nity for us to work with them during their har­vest and vice versa.”

For their part, pro­duc­ers in Argentina have well known they are poised to cap­ture more of the global market. “We know that we have a lot of poten­tial. We have the volume…the price that we are sell­ing, export­ing our oil, is the best price right now in the market, Argentina Olive Group direc­tor Frankie Gobbee said in an inter­view for the On Olive Oil pod­cast. “We invest a lot in the state of our tech­nol­ogy. We make HACCP stan­dards, inter­na­tional stan­dards, in all our mills and fac­to­ries. We are work­ing to pre­pare for next year and the year after that. These are going to be very good years for Argentina in terms of expor­ta­tion.”

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© Olive Oil Times — Data source: IOC

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From a brand­ing stand­point, Kelley explains, “there is an Italian influ­ence in Argentinian cul­ture that is so well aligned with Lucini Italia’s simple phi­los­o­phy that great food comes from only the most cared-for, high-qual­ity ingre­di­ents.” One of the com­pa­ny’s part­ners pur­chased his mill from an Italian family, and many res­i­dents in the coun­try pos­sess dual cit­i­zen­ship.

COR has been work­ing closely with Argentinian pro­duc­ers to be present at the time of har­vests to hand-select oils and mark tanks for opti­mal qual­ity con­trol.

In work­ing directly with COR, Argentinian pro­duc­ers have gained access to mem­bers of COR’s milling, oper­a­tions, and tech­ni­cal ser­vices teams, who Kelley dis­patches to assist in pro­duc­tion and to taste oils off the line.

COR has also helped their for­eign part­ners nav­i­gate the com­plex­i­ties of export­ing agri­cul­tural goods to the United States.

Kelley believes his for­mula can be repli­cated around the world.

“California Olive Ranch is unique in that we have exper­tise in grow­ing, milling, bot­tling, and sell­ing a pre­mium prod­uct to con­sumers at an approach­able price. The abil­ity to do all four of these things can help pro­duc­ers around the world, by increas­ing the qual­ity of what they pro­duce and the prices they receive for their efforts.”

“We want to encour­age brands to ven­ture out­side of their com­fort zone and ded­i­cate the resources to expand the olive oil cat­e­gory and increase edu­ca­tion of the American con­sumer about what a high qual­ity oil should be,” Kelley said.

“We started by putting California on the map with COR, and now we hope to bring atten­tion to Argentina, a coun­try we believe is poised to follow the same path.”

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