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