Olive Oil Flows Through Summer Food Show

There were 270 companies selling olive oil at the Specialty Food Association's annual Summer Fancy Food show in New York.

Thomas Sheridan, DiAlfredo Foods
Jul. 5, 2017
By Joanne Drawbaugh
Thomas Sheridan, DiAlfredo Foods

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The Specialty Food Association held its Summer Fancy Food Show from Sunday, June 25th to Tuesday, June 27th at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Established in 1952, the Association calls itself a thriv­ing com­mu­nity of food arti­sans, pur­vey­ors, importers and entre­pre­neurs who bring craft, care and joy to the dis­tinc­tive foods they sell.” 

The annual sum­mer show com­prises North America’s most exten­sive spe­cialty food and bev­er­age event, con­nect­ing con­sumers and ven­dors with over 180,000 prod­uct offer­ings from 2,400 exhibitors hail­ing from 50 coun­tries and regions, accord­ing to its orga­niz­ers. This year, the exhibitor cat­a­log listed roughly 270 com­pa­nies at the event who were offer­ing olive oil.

The gen­eral atmos­phere among these olive oil exhibitors proved upbeat and opti­mistic for the industry’s con­tin­ued poten­tial. Some, like Thomas Sheridan of DiAlfredo Foods, came to the show for their first time with the inten­tion of estab­lish­ing new busi­ness con­nec­tions, espe­cially with retail out­lets that claim a large port­fo­lio of regional stores. 

Thomas Sheridan, DiAlfredo Foods

Others, such as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Argentina Olive Group, hoped to con­tinue pro­mot­ing their coun­tries’ flour­ish­ing pro­duc­tion capa­bil­i­ties. Julian Clusellas was able to boast that his farms have increased har­vest yields from the pre­vi­ous year’s four mil­lion kilos to this year’s fif­teen million. 

While Clusellas explained that he plans to sell most of this har­vest in bulk to the United States, where buy­ers have found his qual­ity and pric­ing com­pet­i­tive, he said he also sells about 50,000 liters each year under the brand Valle de la Puerta domes­ti­cally in Argentina and to mar­kets in Western China. Argentinian rep­re­sen­ta­tive Francisco Gobbee fur­ther elab­o­rated that Argentina has ample nat­ural resources to expand its out­put, rang­ing from more land to irri­ga­tion capabilities. 

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An array of pro­duc­ers from Tunisia were rep­re­sented at the show to con­tinue pro­mot­ing their country’s com­mit­ment to bot­tling EVOO of an increas­ingly high caliber. 

Representatives from the California Olive Oil Council turned their gaze toward pro­mot­ing edu­ca­tion to help build a mar­ket of more edu­cated con­sumers in the United States. They stated that demand is ris­ing, and in order to cap­i­tal­ize on this trend, the orga­ni­za­tion is work­ing on a vari­ety of con­sumer events. Membership in the coun­cil is also increas­ing, which the orga­ni­za­tion intends to par­lay into a part­ner­ship with the highly suc­cess­ful California Grown” coalition. 

Executive Director Patricia Darragh noted that California grow­ers are suc­ceed­ing in meet­ing an increas­ing demand thanks to advance­ment in farm­ing tech­nolo­gies, which have allowed olive trees to begin yield­ing sub­stan­tial crops in as lit­tle as two years from plant­ing. Darragh explained that she would like to see more plant­i­ngs, even as she acknowl­edged the trend among larger pro­duc­ers who have taken to aug­ment­ing their grow­ing but lim­ited out­put with imports to sat­isfy domes­tic needs. Currently, California pro­duces approx­i­mately four mil­lion gal­lons of olive oil annually. 

Dewey Lucero, owner of the California olive oil brand Wild Groves, embod­ies the suc­cess that California com­pa­nies have enjoyed in recent years. Originally from Corning, California, Lucero began his first olive oil com­pany with a $50,000 loan from his par­ents in 2005. After part­ner­ing with a larger com­pany, he was soon able to sell his stake and begin a new solo oper­a­tion, along with some of the grow­ers from his orig­i­nal project. Throughout the process, he learned the impor­tance of con­nect­ing with con­sumers, stay­ing real­is­tic and being patient. 

Though every olive oil exhibitor extolled their gen­uine belief in the olive oil industry’s future, many echoed the same con­cerns. There was hope for a reform in label­ing prac­tices, which cur­rently require bot­tles to show their con­tents’ coun­tries of ori­gin but do not pro­vide any method for describ­ing the pro­por­tions. Many cited con­sumer edu­ca­tion as a means of abet­ting this issue until fur­ther reg­u­la­tions are put in place. 

Producers like Brenda and Nick Wilkinson of the South African olive oil brand Rio Largo lauded the con­ven­tion for bring­ing together a broad group of olive oil com­pa­nies that stood apart for their authen­tic­ity” and devo­tion to their products.

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