Croatian Producers Celebrate 87 Wins at World Competition

Olive oil producers from Istria and Dalmatia overcame adverse weather conditions and challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic to win a record number of Gold and Silver Awards.
Photo: Al Torcio
By Jasmina Nevada
Jun. 10, 2021 10:28 UTC

Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Croatian olive oil pro­duc­ers over­came a chal­leng­ing har­vest in 2020 and earned a record num­ber of awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Producers from the small cen­tral European repub­lic earned 67 Gold and 20 Silver Awards at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion. The large haul of awards comes after the small country’s best har­vest in five years, in which pro­duc­tion reached 4,600 tons.

This was an excep­tional per­for­mance for us this year and has exceeded all our expec­ta­tions.- Karmino Beletić, Al Torico

However, not all pro­duc­ers ben­e­fited equally, with the north­ern Croatian penin­sula of Istria enjoy­ing a bet­ter har­vest than south­west­ern Dalmatia.

Despite fac­ing drought and other adverse cli­matic con­di­tions, pro­duc­ers from the country’s south­west still man­aged to win a record-high num­ber of awards at the com­pe­ti­tion.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Croatia

While the Covid-19 pan­demic largely did not inter­fere with the har­vest, many pro­duc­ers reported eco­nomic chal­lenges, with low­er­ing house­hold incomes and the shut­down of the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor con­sid­er­ably dri­ving down demand for olive oils.

A recent increase in cheap olive oil imports has also wor­ried some pro­duc­ers, who are con­cerned that their prod­ucts will not com­pete with the less expen­sive alter­na­tives.

However, the announce­ment of the NYIOOC win­ners last month assuaged some of the pro­duc­ers’ con­cerns. It gave them cause to cel­e­brate the end of yet another chal­leng­ing but suc­cess­ful crop year.

Among the biggest win­ners at the 2021 NYIOOC was Al Torcio, a small fam­ily-run oper­a­tion in Istria.


Photo: Al Torcio

In their third con­sec­u­tive year enter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, Al Torcio won five Gold Awards and three Silver Awards, improv­ing upon their two pre­vi­ous per­for­mances at the com­pe­ti­tion.

We are very proud of the suc­cess achieved, although we did not expect such a large num­ber of awards,” Karmino Beletić, Al Torico’s CEO, told Olive Oil Times. This was an excep­tional per­for­mance for us this year and has exceeded all our expec­ta­tions.”

Part of what has led to Al Torcio’s suc­cess is their com­plete con­trol of the olive oil pro­duc­tion process, which includes their newly-updated on-site mill. Beletić care­fully con­trols the entire process, from har­vest­ing to bot­tling.

He added that another rea­son for the company’s suc­cess is its unique approach to milling. He said that Al Torcio is one of the only millers that pro­duces seven dif­fer­ent mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils: Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio, Rosulja, Itrana, Ascolana, Bjelica and Moraiolo. Al Torcio also pro­duces a blend.

In 2020, the com­pany har­vested around 40 tons of olives, from which they milled about 3,000 liters of oil, a much lower yield than usual.

In com­par­i­son to pre­vi­ous har­vests, oil yields were very low, with some olives even below five per­cent,” Beletić said. In addi­tion to poor yields, in the past two years, we have switched to organic olive pro­cess­ing and pro­duc­tion.

This severely lim­its our resources for olive cul­ti­va­tion and obtain­ing a healthy fruit, which is the first and most impor­tant con­di­tion for obtain­ing the best extra vir­gin olive oil,” he added.


Winning so many awards over the years at the NYIOOC has pro­foundly impacted Al Torcio’s brand. Beletić said the awards have led to increased sales inquiries from around the rest of Europe. However, he does not know if he will be able to meet this new demand with his lim­ited pro­duc­tion.

Avistiria was yet another multi-award-win­ning Croatian pro­ducer at the 2021 NYIOOC. The Istrian pro­ducer began oper­a­tions in 2015 and has entered the NYIOOC each year since 2018.


Photo: Avistria

This year, Avistria earned a Gold Award for its Stari Buza brand and two Silver Awards for its Istrian blend and Pendolino mono­va­ri­etal.

Rudolf Nemetschke, the co-owner of Avistria, said that par­tic­i­pa­tion at the NYIOOC is vital for his brand as it pro­vides a seal of qual­ity which they can pass on to the buyer.

2020 was a tough year,” Nemetsche said. I was glad that our team got these awards, that our path for qual­ity is the cor­rect one.”

Avistria’s focus is on qual­ity and not quan­tity or mar­ket­ing, with Nemetschke and his team pay­ing par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the cul­ti­va­tion of the trees.

Last year, we planted thou­sands of young olive trees, along with run­ning the exist­ing farm,” he said. This puts a lot of pres­sure on the team.”

He added that 2020 was the first year in which they could har­vest the trees that they planted in 2016, demon­strat­ing the need for patience and the length of time it takes these invest­ments to begin to pay off.

Avistria con­sid­ers its olive pro­duc­tion process dis­tinct from its com­peti­tors in the region. They over­see the process from start to fin­ish, from the ini­tial prepa­ra­tion of the land to har­vest­ing, stor­age and deliv­ery.

Nemetsche said that this com­plete con­trol of the entire sup­ply chain allows their cus­tomers to trust that they are get­ting pre­cisely what the bottle’s label says.

Avistria’s olive grove is com­prised of 400 old trees and 1,000 young trees. Their total oil pro­duc­tion in 2020 was around 400 liters, with the out­put from the trees planted in 2016 being sub­stan­tially higher than in pre­vi­ous years.

However, the per­cent­age of oil extracted was sub­stan­tially lower than in pre­vi­ous years, which was one of the chal­lenges that Nemetsche and his team faced last year.

Covid-19 was a big chal­lenge, as we live in Austria, but run the olive farm in Istria,” he said. We have a young team of farm­ing pro­fes­sion­als that we had to lead from abroad.”

A lot of trust and the use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy was nec­es­sary to man­age all of this,” Nemetsche added. Traveling was restricted, so we could not even attend the har­vest.”

The impact of Covid-19 hit their busi­ness hard and forced Nemetsche to re-focus on word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tions and demand from house­hold con­sumers. He also sought to edu­cate his buy­ers about the health ben­e­fits of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, espe­cially for the immune sys­tem.

Another Istrian pro­ducer that struck Gold at the 2021 NYIOOC was OPG Brečević Andrea, which was awarded for its Rheos brand.


Photo: OPG Brečević Andrea

The name of the oil orig­i­nates from the Greek word spring or flow.’ The blend of Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio, Buža and Istarska Bjelica olives was awarded Gold for the sec­ond year in a row.

The feel­ing of win­ning this year is even bet­ter than that of last year because we proved our excel­lent qual­ity even if we are a young’ brand and young man­u­fac­tur­ers,” Andrea Brečević said. It is always nice to receive such an impor­tant recog­ni­tion and real­ize that all our efforts and work have paid off.”

Brečević said that he is proud of pro­duc­ing an oil rec­og­nized for its high qual­ity and added that their plan to change the bot­tle in which their oils are mar­keted is also help­ing the prod­uct stand out.

The pro­ducer yielded 2,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil last year but said he faced plenty of chal­lenges.

Overall, the past har­vest was good for Brečević, but the oil yield was slightly smaller, and this is one of his main chal­lenges; plan­ning ahead to ration all of his resources to take care of the trees with­out know­ing what to expect in the future.

However, Brečević added that win­ning awards from the NYIOOC is all the moti­va­tion to keep going and improve his prod­uct.

The impact of receiv­ing this award is moti­va­tion to con­tinue and grow the fam­ily busi­ness, which was cre­ated out of love and pas­sion for olives, Istria and our tra­di­tion,” he said.

While plenty of Croatian pro­duc­ers were repeat win­ners at the NYIOOC, adding to their col­lec­tion of awards, some pro­duc­ers cel­e­brated their maiden vic­to­ries.

Among these was OPG Damir Vanđelić, which earned a Gold and Silver Award for its medium Nono Remiđo Rosignola and medium Nono Remiđo Buža, respec­tively.


Photo: OPG Damir Vanđelić

We are happy that our effort to pro­duce the high­est qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil has been rec­og­nized,” Vanđelić told Olive Oil Times. These awards will help us increase inter­na­tional sales.”

Vanđelić pro­duced 5,000 liters of olive oil in the 2020 har­vest, which was affected by low lev­els of rain­fall.

However, Vanđelić and his wife, Patricija, believe that this minor set­back will not have a long-last­ing impact on their fledg­ling brand.

There was longer har­vest­ing due to slow matu­rity of olives,” they said. However, we always adjust the pro­cess­ing to get extra qual­ity oil. We are wait­ing for the flow­er­ing of olives. We hope for a great yield of olives which makes us very happy.”


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