After an off-year harvest complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, producers from Turkey celebrated a record-high 44 awards.
Part of our continuing special coverage of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Turkish producers enjoyed a record year at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, earning 44 awards from 91 entries.
Producers from the world’s fourth-largest olive oil-producing nation (in 2020) took home 18 Gold Awards, tied with last year’s record high, and 26 Silver Awards, more than they had totaled since the competition began in 2013.
We believe that the prizes in the NYIOOC are very important to provide visibility to our products. They also prove that our quality continues every year.
This year’s record awards haul comes after a challenging harvest season in which bad weather compounded an off-year to lower production to somewhere between 180,000 tons and 210,000 tons. However, producers from across the country told Olive Oil Times that they expect production to continue trending upward.
A recent ban on bulk olive oil exports, which will remain in place until October, has also shifted many producers’ emphasis to individually packaged olive oils. Awards from the NYIOOC are seen as one of the best ways to help producers differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace.See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Turkey
Among the biggest winners – NovaVera, Hermus, Safitad and Genius Olive Oil – were the ones that have won previously at the world’s most prestigious olive oil quality competition.
“Hermus has entered the NYIOOC since the beginning of the competition,” Ali Zihnioglu, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times. The producer has earned a Gold and three Silvers Awards this year.
“We are always proud of our products because we have maintained our quality,” he added. “Also, our oil comes directly from our carefully-controlled orchards.”
Another winner, Palamidas, earned two Gold Awards in its first attempt at the World Olive Oil Competition.
“Winning two Gold Awards made us feel very inspired about our future and showed us that we are on the right path on producing a unique and high-quality product,” Ferzan Batum, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times.
The producers behind Safitad also earned two awards at this year’s NYIOOC, taking home a Gold and Silver Award. Last year, the company earned just one Silver Award, Mehmet Taki, the company’s owner, said.
Meanwhile, third-time winner NovaVera has also emerged as one of the most promising Turkish producers.
Its Trilye Early Harvest brand has earned a Gold Award for the third consecutive year, while three of the company’s other oils each earned a Silver Award.
“This is our third year in the NYIOOC,” Bahar Alan, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times. “We were happy to hear that out of the four samples we sent. NovaVera Trilye got the Gold Award (as always), and our Ayvalik, Yamalak and Organic were awarded Silver.”
Founded by Alan in 2018, NovaVera specializes in producing local Turkish olive oil varieties. The producer has also added a component of female empowerment to its brand by changing the labels on its bottles. The new labels have been created by a female painter from Turkey and illustrate the portraits of women.
According to Alan, these illustrations represent the unique characteristics of the olive oil inside the bottle: delicate, strong, fruity and vivid, among others.
“In a world of idealized images, we want to encourage women to be their own self and embrace their own traits,” she said. “We also want to emphasize that women in their creative and productive mode can produce wonders. Being a brand created by a woman entrepreneur, we want to inspire all the women to chase their dreams.”
Among Turkey’s other winning producers was Genius Olive Oil, which earned a Gold Award again for its medium Arbequina.
Founded by Tarkan Karakaya and Oguz Cakir, the company has also participated in five other global competitions and earned several awards.
“We believe that high-quality olives are the pre-requisite for producing the high-quality olive oil,” Karakaya said. “We produce very high-quality olives in our own olive grove. As the owners of the company, we continuously supervise the process in all stages; from planting the olive tree to bottling the olive oil.”
“We also harvest very early using the special harvesting machine ‘Gregoire 140’ and, in a couple of hours, we start our production at the mill while maintaining the standards of preparation, cleanliness and hygiene,” Cakir added.
According to all the winning producers, the 2020 harvest came with plenty of challenges, but 2021 is already looking like it will be a much more fruitful year.
“We produced 500 tons of olives this year; our production increases about 30-percent each year as the trees in our groves grew older,” Alan said. “This year was a better year in terms of temperature, compared to 2020.”
Karakaya and Cakir are also expecting a higher olive yield this year and hopefully better quality too.
“In 2020, the quantity of crop was a bit less than previous years due to climate change,” they said. “We produced 40,000 liters of olive oil.”
Regarding the 2021 harvest, they added, “we are very optimistic, and we look forward to growing olives in a greater quantity. We hope that the impacts of climate change will be less severe, and our quality and quantity will be higher this year and in the years to come.”
Likewise, v, the owner of Hermus, said that 2021 was shaping up to be a better year than 2020 was.
“Last year, we were affected by the exposure to too much heat during the time of blossoming, like other producers, and therefore we produced 50,000 bottles,” he said. “This year, we are expecting over 100,000 bottles.”
Zihnioglu added that the production and quality of olives are dependent upon natural factors, especially the climate.
“To produce premium olive oil is always challenging because if you make mistakes in the production, harvest or timing, you can never correct that,” he said.
According to Taki, Safitad’s owner, 2020 was a stressful year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a very dry summer, but they managed to deal effectively with the challenges.
Besides talking about the challenges being faced by the olive oil industry, the owner of Palamidas said hard work and the ability to adapt are crucial to success.
“While Mother Nature is unpredictable and increasing anomalies in the weather due to climate change put a strain on our work, we constantly innovate to fight with its adverse effects,” Batum said. “We have much to learn, but so far we have been successful in adapting to the changing environment. Indeed, hard work pays off.”
Producers from around Turkey said that winning awards at the NYIOOC helps them create a positive brand image and raise the profiles of their respective regions. It also provides them with multiple opportunities to export their oils all over the world.
“I always feel proud of getting prizes from the NYIOOC because it is the most prestigious and famous competition in the world,” Zihnioglu said.
Taki added that winning th Gold Award will significantly impact his brand, particularly in terms of garnering interest from abroad.
Similarly, Batum said that winning two Gold Awards at the NYIOOC in their first attempt was a proud moment for her brand and demonstrates that it is suitable for international recognition.
Karakaya and Cakir agreed that winning at the most important olive oil competition feels good and rewards a year’s worth of hard work.
Alan said that winning so consistently at the NYIOOC gives her brand an edge in the competitive export market.
“We are currently exporting our products to the United States, Europe and South Korea,” she said. “We believe that the new prizes in the NYIOOC are very important to provide visibility to our products. They also prove that our quality continues every year and that we aim for quality not just for a single product, but for our whole product line.”