“It is not just a passion; it is our life. It’s hard work, but once we taste the product we forget the rest.”
Frances Ritsi, founder of Olea Juice reflects on one moment that can only happen after a day’s work of hand picking and selecting olives in an olive grove located in the Peloponnese region of Greece. There, his team sits around the table at the mill with fresh hot bread in hand ready to dip it into the first flow from the extraction of pure Greek olive oil. Ritsi said this is one of the loveliest parts of producing his New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) award-winning olive oil.
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“Our groves sit on a hill 400m (1,300 feet) above the Mediterranean, where the sea breeze touches the land’s nature. It is simply unforgettable.”
What’s in a Name
Ritsi said Greek olive oil is pure and simple and that’s how the name Olea Juice came to life.
“What most people do not know is an olive is a fruit and that olive oil is actually a juice,” He also points out he chose the scientific word olea because it can be understood in many languages for something associated with olive oil.
“I like names that speak for themselves. By choosing our name we aimed to honor the tree and its fruit because we would not be standing here if it wasn’t for the olive tree.”
Aris Xenofos, the founder of AiQ, another NYIOOC Gold Medal Winner from Greece also had searched for a name that spoke for itself. He was inspired by the simple letters of IQ and EQ, which he said reflects intelligence in mind and creativity in the agricultural sector.
“Q stands for quality and A for a prime position as it is the first letter in alphabet. I wanted these notions to be equally reflected on our logo,” said Xenofos.
Meanwhile, the AiQ bottle boasts a number that aims to educate.
“The 0.5 which shows prominently on our product came as an idea after realizing the lack of knowledge people have about how extra virgin olive oil is defined. So we wanted to help the consumer gradually demand to know the acidity of the olive oil he consumes. Although acidity is not the only qualitative factor, it happens to be the most popular.”
Xenofos said AiQ actually has an acidity of 0.3 but the 0.5 level was chosen for the bottle’s label to show that 0.5 will never be exceeded even after AiQ is bottled in its specially chosen dark black and green bottle that protects it from light.
Changing the Market
Successfully marketing bottled premium extra virgin olive oil is something that both Olea Juice and AiQ believe will raise Greece’s image in the international market.
Frances said his company has spent over 100 hours of tasting to choose the exact blend.
“The fact is that 95 percent of Greek olive oil is exported in bulk as a commodity and, as a result, it loses its Greek identity on its way to the consumer. My hope is to showcase just how quality Greek olive oil is.”
Xenofos said Greek olive oil has superior qualities and that is why countries like Italy and Spain blend it into their own olive oils. He said the aroma, density, flavor and the color of Greek olive oil cannot be found in other parts of the world.
“AiQ and its exquisite result did not come up by luck. We visited a number of olive groves and tasted and tested olive oils. We met with families that go back three generations in the olive oil business and have a long history and experience in cultivation. We audited oil mills with regard to their production line and storage conditions.”
With a solid marketing plan and industry recognition in check, both companies are looking ahead. Olea Juice has come out with seven new products for 2014 and will continue to seek new distributors and partners. AiQ also aims to increase its presence in more international markets.
Both founders say that their award-winning success so far is a culmination of hard work and passion. Two qualities that they believe will help consumers worldwide distinguish their products and what they stand for.
“AiQ began from my love for Greece, the Greek people, what the land produces and its history. Through quality, innovation, continued creativity and good work we can continue to bring a superior product, hailing from Greece to the market,” said Xenofos.
“Here in Greece, olive oil is within our everyday life,” said Ritsi. “It’s not just as a product; it’s part of a lifestyle. That’s why I believe every Greek producer who makes an honest effort in the olive oil industry deserves admiration and applause.”