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.
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.”
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.”
© Olive Oil Times — Data source: IOC
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.”