California Olive Ranch, the largest American olive oil producer, announced its acquisition of Lucini Italia, a producer and importer of Italian extra virgin olive oils.
In the equity transaction the seller, Molinos USA, retains a minority share in the combined company. California Olive Ranch (COR) and Lucini Italia will continue to operate under their own labels, according to a statement released today. The company will maintain its headquarters in Chico, California.
California Olive Ranch CEO Gregg Kelley said, “We see strong growth in the premium segment in coming years and we think these two brands are best positioned to prosper as consumers trade up to better quality.”
“Like wine, olive oils vary according to soil, climate and olive varietal,” Kelley explained. “Our merger with Lucini will allow us to offer the American olive oil consumer a wider variety of trustworthy oil. This transaction also allows us to enter the sauce, vinaigrette, and vinegar categories with Lucini’s portfolio of quality products.”
California Olive Ranch is the top-selling brand of American extra virgin olive oil and Lucini is among the top brands of Italian extra virgin olive oil. Their combined shares would make them the fourth largest brand in the country with 4.45 percent of U.S. retail sales and revenues in excess of $80 million in 2015, the statement said.
Founded in 1998, California Olive Ranch is a privately owned company inspired by new growing and harvesting methods which enable the production of high quality moderately priced extra virgin olive oil. It is the largest producer of extra virgin olive oil in the United States, and sales have more than quadrupled since 2010, according to a statement.
Founded in 1997, Lucini Italia olive oils are traditionally produced using hand-harvested olives milled in small batches at local mills to ensure freshness. This process allows for different oil varietals with different flavor profiles, the company said. Lucini Italia received Gold Awards at the 2013 and 2014 New York International Olive Oil Competitions.
California Olive Ranch has spearheaded efforts in recent years by American producers to level the playing field with European competitors. COR and the American Olive Oil Producers Association pressed unsuccessfully for a provision in the failed Farm Bill last year that would have imposed olive oil import controls.
In 2012, the group urged lawmakers to examine the competitive advantages of imports which led to a United States International Trade Commission investigation and, last year, pushed for the creation of the Olive Oil Commission of California to establish new quality standards for olive oil produced in the state with the eventual aim of having the standards apply to imports as well.