`Conference Urges Olive Oil Merchants to Monitor their Supply Chain - Olive Oil Times

Conference Urges Olive Oil Merchants to Monitor their Supply Chain

Sep. 28, 2015
Olive Oil Times Staff

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A con­fer­ence held at New York’s Cornell Club by a San Francisco law firm last week out­lined the per­ils of the olive oil trade and cau­tioned any­one who sold or dis­trib­uted it to know what they are doing.

Only 23 attended the con­fer­ence, 11 of which were the speak­ers them­selves, but among the non-speak­ers were buy­ers from Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Fairway Market, Fresh Direct, and Kehe Distributors.

Hungry lawyers walk down the food aisles look­ing for tar­gets,” warned Christopher Van Gundy, a part­ner at Keller and Heckman, the firm that orga­nized the event, as he laid out his case for greater vig­i­lance on behalf of importers, dis­trib­u­tors and retail­ers. Everyone in the sup­ply chain is liable.”

File a sen­sory and chem­i­cal test for every brand you sell.- David Neuman, Gaea USA

Backing him up was a pro­ces­sion of speak­ers includ­ing Extra Virgin Alliance co-founders Alexandra Devarenne and Paul Miller, American Oil Chemists’ Society chief sci­ence offi­cer Richard Cantrill, Brown University assis­tant pro­fes­sor of med­ical sci­ence Mary Flynn, Gaea North America CEO David Neuman and Maria Reyes from KeHE Distributors.

Eryn Balch, from the North American Olive Oil Association, was sched­uled to present at the con­fer­ence but was not in atten­dance.

There’s an awful lot of money miss­ing,” began Paul Miller, who as pres­i­dent of the Australian Olive Association waged a cam­paign against the decep­tive label­ing of super­mar­ket brands. Despite a clear demand trend toward qual­ity around the world, he pointed out, the value of EVOO has paled in com­par­i­son to other cook­ing oils.

Christopher Van Gundy, a partner at Keller and Heckman, addressed attendees of a conference, Defending Your Supply Chain: The Case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” at Cornell Club in New York

That’s because some pro­duc­ers are pass­ing off cheap oils as extra vir­gin and dump­ing it on store shelves where con­sumers stand lit­tle chance of get­ting what they pay for, Miller argued.

The only way to pre­vent decep­tion, and the lia­bil­ity mer­chants face as fraud cases loom, is to mon­i­tor qual­ity and man­age it through­out the olive oil’s shelf life. The future of the indus­try is test­ing off the shelves,” he said.

Once major retail­ers begin test­ing prod­ucts off the shelves, the prob­lems go away, he said, cit­ing exam­ples such as the German retailer, Aldi, who reg­u­larly tests using the PPP and DAGs meth­ods devel­oped by Christian Gertz of the Official Institute of Chemical Analysis.

As a buyer, you need to know as much or more than your ven­dors or you will lose the upper hand,” said David Neuman, the CEO of the North American sub­sidiary of the Greek brand, Gaea.

Neuman, who led Lucini Italia until it was sold to California Olive Ranch ear­lier this year, said retail­ers should be con­duct­ing reg­u­lar test­ing to demon­strate due dili­gence in case they’re called out on the qual­ity of prod­ucts on their shelves.

File a sen­sory and chem­i­cal test for every brand you sell,” Neuman sug­gested, adding that retail­ers should bill back pro­duc­ers for the added costs.

With pro­duc­ers of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil strug­gling to get their prod­ucts to con­sumers at prices that make it worth the great effort nec­es­sary to pro­duce it, Alexandra Devarenne, the EVA co-founder and con­sul­tant, blamed a sense­less down­ward spi­ral” drag­ging the indus­try to its low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor.

Devarenne said that if olive oil bot­tles iden­ti­fied the true grade of their con­tents, we would have a vig­or­ous trade in vir­gin olive oil in the U.S.” — a grade, she argued, that con­sumers already like using — leav­ing prop­erly labeled extra vir­gin to reflect its true value and com­mand the higher prices nec­es­sary to sus­tain the indus­try. Why put lip­stick on your pigs,” she asked, when you can sell bacon?”

Maria Reyes, who said she grew up know­ing noth­ing about olive oil, but as ven­dor man­age­ment direc­tor at KeHE Distributors has taken a spe­cial inter­est in the cat­e­gory and its poten­tial, said the growth of the $3 bil­lion spe­cialty foods dis­trib­u­tor was in the higher cat­e­gories.”

She rec­om­mended that retail­ers add more vari­ety to the spe­cialty olive oil sec­tion to achieve higher prof­its and pro­vide health­ier prod­ucts for cus­tomers.

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