When your company’s extra virgin olive oils continue to garner top honors at competitions across the globe, it should be your rightful time to raise a tasting cup and revel in your success. Or so you’d think.
Australia’s Boundary Bend harvests a hit parade of varieties favored for extra virgin olive oil — Arbequina, Hojiblanca, Koronekei, Picual, Leccina, and several more — from 2.5 million trees. Their state-of-the-art production practices have led them to extraordinary yields and worldwide acclaim.
The estate produces 10.5 million liters annually of some of the highest quality EVOOs on the market, winning at national and international tasting competitions including the prestigious New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), where Cobram Estate has earned more awards than any other brand.
But in a recent interview with Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, on the front page of the business section, McGavin — while apparently having posted a record harvest just last month — appears restrained even as he smiles.
“We want people to sell a product and call it what it is,” McGavin was quoted as saying. “If it’s refined olive oil, call it that. If it’s extra virgin, make sure it is. And try to get us access to where 70 percent of the world’s olive oil is consumed, which is Europe.”
Cobram Estate’s own website tells the story of McGavin’s frustration in a snapshot. Navigate to a tab, “Stockists,” and a map shows the retail locations for the company’s brands. To the far left, the United States and Canada are sparsely dotted, while to the very far right, several others mark locations in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, and Australia. The entirety of Europe and South America is wholly blank.
As critically applauded as his brands are, McGavin can’t seem to get them in front of many of the world’s consumers without giving away the tree, so to speak.
Despite the Euro-barriers, the Australian company and its products are beginning to find a firmer footing in the U.S. market, where production by all American producers combined doesn’t match the output of Boundary Bend. Earlier this year, the company set up a production facility near Sacramento, California.
According to Fairway Market, a U.S. retailer that buys and backs the Cobram product and others from Down Under, “fine olive oil from the Australian continent is just exquisite.” And with significant shortages of olive oil yield hitting the open market from traditionally high-production countries like Italy (due to a persistent and damaging blight) and smaller deficits for the world’s top exporter, Spain, McGavin is perhaps justifiably outraged that he can’t sell his finely crafted, authentic and efficiently milled product, in all its apparent abundance, to a market already rampant with counterfeits.
In 2010, McGavin told Olive Oil Times’ Sarah Schwartz, “I think Australia is pivotal to the future of the olive industry. There are going to be some pretty major advances in the Southern Hemisphere in the next 10 years as far as our position in the world market.” Five years later, McGavin’s predictions are proving to be accurate while formidable obstacles remain for the company to maximize its global cache.