Maria Reyes

Following the high-level talks on the first day of the NYIOOC, several notable speakers captured the attention of attendees on the second day of presentations with engaging discourse on distribution and importing. Audience members including olive oil producers, wholesalers and retailers had the opportunity to hear insights from experts and educators on executing these critical, and often tricky, business functions successfully.

Maria Reyes, category manager of KeHE Distributors, outlined essential steps for securing relationships with distributors. She emphasized maintaining detailed plans for one’s brand and establishing ongoing, productive relationships with brokers, brand managers, distributors and retailers, depending on the company’s unique needs and strategic plan. Reyes also encouraged companies to invest the time and money necessary to participate in distributor and trade conferences. “Talk to anyone and everyone about your product, your story. Quality is so important and your story is even more important.”

John Sessler

The discussion on distribution was rounded out with commentary from John Sessler, president of JCS Tradecom / ZOE Brands. He spoke of his own trials and tribulations launching his brand of olive oil, Zoe, which he described as “the finest quality at an affordable, everyday price.” Sessler navigated challenges in developing a long-term mutually beneficial relationship with a single producer, placing his olive oil in select retail channels, and operating within a market in which other brands do not all abide by the same quality standards.

Lori Levy

Lori Levy, director of trade and product development at Fairway Market, took the stage to expertly address the technicalities of complying with import regulations. With a remarkable command of the ins and outs of customs, duties, taxes, and fees, Levy provided the audience with a wealth of practical information.

While the speaking events wrapped up on Wednesday evening, conference attendees can look forward to tasting olive oils vying for gold at the 2014 International Olive Oil Competition on Thursday. Winners of this year’s competition will be announced Thursday evening and streamed live worldwide.


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