Fairs, Competitions

American Producers Win Record Number of Awards

After a successful year at the NYIOOC, producers reflect on what their awards mean to them and what the competition says about their brands and the quality of American extra virgin olive oil.

Richard Meisler, San Miguel Olive Farm
May. 10, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Richard Meisler, San Miguel Olive Farm

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Amer­i­can olive oil pro­duc­ers brought home 75 awards from this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion (NYIOOC), enjoy­ing their most suc­cess­ful out­ing since the com­pe­ti­tion began.

In total, pro­duc­ers received one Best in Class, 42 Gold and 32 Sil­ver awards at a suc­cess rate of 57 per­cent, set­ting records in the lat­ter two cat­e­gories. The vast major­ity of the win­ners were from Cal­i­for­nia (although pro­duc­ers from Texas and Ore­gon won as well), and agreed that this suc­cess­ful com­pe­ti­tion points to the mete­oric rise of Cal­i­for­nia extra vir­gin olive oil.

These awards are his­tory, and build the foun­da­tion for our busi­ness. The NYIOOC val­i­dates the qual­ity of our prod­uct.- Richard Meisler, San Miguel Olive Farm

I believe that Cal­i­for­nia is a force to be reck­oned with in mak­ing pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oils,” said Car­rie Baker, the asso­ciate brand man­ager at Round Pond Estate, which won the only Amer­i­can Best in Class Award for its Ital­ian vari­etal medium blend.

We will learn and grow each har­vest and con­tin­u­ously strive to offer the very best oils,” she said. This is more than just busi­ness for us, it’s truly a pas­sion.”
See more: The Best Olive Oils from the United States
For Baker, the award is a cul­mi­na­tion of per­sis­tence, hard work and a metic­u­lous method­ol­ogy. She believes the effort and invest­ment that it takes to pro­duce great oil pays off.

We work really hard each year to make the best blend pos­si­ble, and it is so grat­i­fy­ing to be rec­og­nized,” she said. The award will cer­tainly help when it comes time for our cus­tomers to choose an oil.”

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Richard and Myrna Meisler agree with Baker about the influ­ence the New York awards can have on a producer’s brand and busi­ness. The two co-own the San Miguel Olive Farm, which was among the most suc­cess­ful Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers of the com­pe­ti­tion, receiv­ing two Gold awards and two Sil­ver awards.

“[We feel] elated, acknowl­edged and appre­ci­ated,” Meisler said. “[This will have] a huge impact. These awards are his­tory, and build the foun­da­tion for our busi­ness. The NYIOOC val­i­dates the qual­ity of our prod­uct.”

Myrna and Richard Meisler, San Miguel Olive Farm

Win­ning pro­duc­ers widely agreed that doing well at the com­pe­ti­tion greatly helped with brand optics. How­ever, in terms of dri­ving up sales, Greg Traynor of Ranch 43, said that Best in Class awards move the nee­dle the most.

Acco­lades always help sell prod­uct and we use any feed­back we receive as part of our knowl­edge base when plan­ning our farm­ing, har­vest and milling next year,” Traynor said.

In its first year at the com­pe­ti­tion, Ranch 43 took home one Gold and one Sil­ver award.

Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers only received one Best in Class award this year, which was was bet­ter than last year, but not as good as either 2014 or 2016.

Even so, Phil Asquith of the Ojai Olive Oil Com­pany, finds that the qual­ity of Cal­i­for­nia extra vir­gin olive oil is on the rise. The third-gen­er­a­tion and fam­ily-owned oper­a­tion has entered the NYIOOC every year except one.

I think extra vir­gin olive oils in the US are def­i­nitely improv­ing. More small grow­ers join the field every year, and its push­ing every­one to improve their oils,” he said. We are also all get­ting bet­ter at what we do with prac­tice, as our indus­try is still fairly new here.”

Ojai won three Sil­ver awards, although Asquith thinks they could have done bet­ter. Over­all, Ojai has won 12 Gold and Sil­ver awards since the com­pe­ti­tion began but has not seen these fig­ures trans­late directly into increased sales. But over time I’m sure it will help,” As Ojai seeks to grow, Asquith believes the awards build the company’s cred­i­bil­ity.

Phil Asquith, Ojai Olive Oil Co.

As we grow into a larger brand and con­sider dis­tri­b­u­tion rela­tion­ships, it is likely to help aid in our cred­i­bil­ity,” he said.

Ann Siev­ers, of the Il Fiorello Olive Oil Com­pany, said the awards gen­er­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for pos­i­tive head­lines and sales. Il Fiorello won three Gold Awards and one Sil­ver this year. The com­pany has entered every NYIOOC and pre­vi­ously won five Gold awards.

The record year for Il Fiorello was not the only one for Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers. Amer­i­can oils had a suc­cess rate (awards/entries) of 57 per­cent. This was by far the high­est level of any year at the com­pe­ti­tion and was within five points of both Spain and Italy. Siev­ers noted that this indi­cated how com­pet­i­tive Amer­i­can extra vir­gin olive oil has become.

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Of course,” she said, Amer­i­can olive oils are win­ning as much as other coun­tries as a per­cent­age of pro­duc­tion.”


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