Portuguese Producers Continue to Demonstrate Quality at World Competition

Despite a lower yield in 2020, Portuguese growers produced high-quality oil and beat their success in the previous year's competition.
Photo: Monterosa
Jun. 21, 2021
Clarissa Joshua

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


Portuguese olive oil pro­duc­ers took home 38 awards at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, six more than the pre­vi­ous year and four short of their record-high in 2019.

The suc­cess came despite the fact that many olive grow­ers entered an off-year — the cycli­cal down­turn in pro­duc­tion that fol­lows a bumper har­vest. Portuguese pro­duc­tion reached 100,000 tons in the 2020/21 crop year, down from the record har­vest in 2019/20 in which the Iberian coun­try pro­duced 140,500 tons.

For us, it’s very spe­cial to win any award in New York because one of the rea­sons that made us decide to really bet on sell­ing our olive oil under our own brand was that first Gold Award Olmais won back in 2016.- Julio Alves, co-owner, Quinta dos Olmais

However, the decline in pro­duc­tion did not impact qual­ity, with 95 per­cent of the oil pro­duced expected to meet vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil stan­dards.

Producers in Portugal faced chal­lenges relat­ing to the Covid-19 pan­demic, like their Mediterranean-region coun­ter­parts.

However, the high-den­sity grow­ers that use machines were largely unaf­fected by labor short­ages at har­vest time, but exports and domes­tic sales slumped from two lock­downs that forced the restau­rant and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tors to close.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Portugal

While there was a slight increase in house­hold con­sump­tion, this mostly ben­e­fited larger pro­duc­ers, although some smaller pro­duc­ers still reported pos­i­tive growth.

Sovena is among the Portuguese pro­duc­ers that have enjoyed con­tin­ued suc­cess at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion over the past three years.

For Sovena, and for the Oliveira da Serra brand, it is a great honor to be awarded three Gold Awards,” a spokesper­son told Olive Oil Times. Sovena’s focus on qual­ity and the preser­va­tion of nature along with sus­tain­able devel­op­ment is key to the company’s suc­cess, he added.

But our suc­cess is also linked to our peo­ple who, every day, seek to make the best olive oil in the world, choos­ing the best olives, select­ing the best batches and respond­ing to the needs and pref­er­ences of con­sumers,” the spokesper­son said.

Monterosa also has a strong track record at the NYIOOC and man­aged to bring home one Gold and two Silver Awards in 2021. Their Picual has achieved Gold since 2015.

europe-competitions-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-world-portuguese-producers-continue-to-demonstrate-quality-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Photo: Monterosa

It is a won­der­ful feel­ing [to win] year after year,” António Duarte, a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the com­pany, told Olive Oil Times. The recog­ni­tion of all the hard work we put into pro­duc­ing our oils and gen­er­ates inter­est from clients also.”

One of the oils is made from a regional olive vari­ety, Maçanilha de Tavira, and we com­bine a tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion method with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce our oils,” he added.

However, Duarte said suc­cess for the com­pany did not come with­out its dif­fi­cul­ties.

Last year in Portugal was a year with very low yields and unusual cli­mate con­di­tions,” he said. One day, it was still early, and three days after, it was already a bit late. The ripen­ing of the fruit hap­pened very quickly and we needed to be very care­ful when decid­ing when to har­vest.”

The Covid-19 pan­demic also pro­vided plenty of chal­lenges for Monterosa, as the country’s two lock­downs took their toll on the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor.

Being in a Mediterranean coun­try where the con­sump­tion of olive oil per per­son is high, the impact, for­tu­nately, was not as severe as with other activ­ity sec­tors like tourism,” Duarte said. But we all had dif­fi­culty sell­ing our prod­ucts because restau­rants and hotels had to close down dur­ing two lock­downs, so that made a big impact still.”

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Bare Foods also felt the impact of the pan­demic, and Rui Abecassis, the company’s co-owner, told Olive Oil Times they had to deal with paper short­ages and printer delays, sky-high trans­porta­tion costs, and a dis­fa­vor­able exchange rate.”

europe-competitions-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-world-portuguese-producers-continue-to-demonstrate-quality-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Photo: Bare Foods

However, they could still pro­duce high-qual­ity oil, and their Bare Superior brand has won Gold three years in a row at the NYIOOC, includ­ing in 2021.

The pro­duc­ers said their NYIOOC record helps gain atten­tion and reminds cus­tomers they are pro­duc­ing some of the world’s best extra vir­gin olive oil.

Moreover, the Bare brand is read­ily avail­able in the United States.

You see plenty of imported extra vir­gin olive oils in the U.S. but very few from Portugal,” Abecassis said. Bare extra vir­gin olive oil and Bare Superior are in approx­i­mately 500 retail loca­tions across the U.S., which makes it the best dis­trib­uted Portuguese extra vir­gin olive oil in the U.S.”

Segredos do Côa is yet another multi-con­sec­u­tive-year-win­ning pro­ducer from Portugal. The Duoro-based pro­ducer earned a Gold Award for its fourth con­sec­u­tive year in the NYIOOC.

It is a plea­sure to par­tic­i­pate in such a highly rec­og­nized con­test,” owner Aníbal Soares said. We are extremely proud of our brand… It adds to the com­pa­ny’s name and con­tin­ued growth and demon­strates the qual­ity of our prod­ucts.”

The main fac­tors that dif­fer­en­ti­ate our olive oil is the fact that it is an extra vir­gin Azeite de Quinta’ from cen­te­nary olive groves, a tra­di­tional, non-inten­sive and non-irri­gated cul­ture,” he added. Hillside schist soils and freshly har­vested olives by hand, in a state of cor­rect mat­u­ra­tion, give rise to this pure juice.”

Segredos do Côa faced plenty of chal­lenges relat­ing to the cli­mate in 2020, espe­cially as their olive groves are organic and hand-har­vested. The Covid-19 pan­demic also hurt the company’s abil­ity to mar­ket its prod­ucts.

As we all know, the pan­demic affected every­one in gen­eral,” Soares said. Our con­cept in par­tic­u­lar – Farm-to-Table – has affected our sales, as restau­rants and hotels in Portugal were prac­ti­cally closed for about 10 months.”

Situated not too far to the north­east of Duoro, Quinta dos Olmais is owned by the Gomes Alves fam­ily, and their organic extra vir­gin olive oil has won two Gold and two Silver Awards since enter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion in 2016.

europe-competitions-profiles-the-best-olive-oils-world-portuguese-producers-continue-to-demonstrate-quality-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Photo: Quinta dos Olmais

This year, the Trás-os-Montes-based pro­ducer earned a Silver Award for its organic medium Cobrancosa.

For us, it’s very spe­cial to win any award in New York because one of the rea­sons that made us decide to really bet on sell­ing our olive oil under our own brand was that first Gold Award Olmais won back in 2016,” co-owner Julio Alves told Olive Oil Times. That win was our very first one and moti­vated us beyond any­thing else; it really pointed us the way.”

Alves said that what sets Quinta dos Olmais apart is the oil’s fresh and bal­anced green flo­ral pro­file, which, along with its mild bit­ter­ness and pun­gency, makes it the per­fect gas­tro­nomic olive oil.”

He added that the company’s back­story also helps the brand to stand out in the com­pet­i­tive mar­ket of high-end extra vir­gin olive oil.

We started this project back in 2010, recov­ered some aban­doned olive groves, con­verted them to organic farm­ing, got cer­ti­fied and then in 2016 we started bot­tling and mar­ket­ing our olive oil under our own brand,” Alves said. Two years ago, our com­pany won the National Agriculture Award.”

The biggest chal­lenges Quinta dos Olmais faced last year were due to the pan­demic and dif­fi­cult cli­matic con­di­tions. The pro­duc­ers had a chronic lack of work­force, and sales to the hos­pi­tal­ity and restau­rant sec­tors took a hit, cou­pled with another dry year.

However, olive fruit fly attacks were fewer, and despite the issues, 2021 looks to be a promis­ing year for the pro­duc­ers.

With a lot of work and amaz­ing dis­trib­u­tors, we recov­ered from that blow and ended the year with pos­i­tive growth,” Alves said.


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