Back in February, Australia’s Financial Review posted a story by Mark Abernethy that in just four short months would prove to be prophetic. In “All Olive Oils Are Not Created Equal,” Abernethy addressed the quandary faced by an Australian industry bursting onto the EVOO scene with exceptionally high-quality products and a growing export business, but a challenge in magnetizing its home turf consumers.
In the story, Boundary Bend’s CEO and majority stakeholder Rob McGavin said, “It’s a really tough industry. Australian growers can produce the highest grade extra virgin olive oil, but it’s hard to get past the labeling and marketing of the European imports.” He noted that by rote, the Euro-brands were what consumers had come to expect and seek when purchasing high-quality olive oil.
Though Spain, Italy, and Greece traditionally dominated the trade, Abernethy saw the tide turning. “Australia’s quandary of very high quality yet relatively low domestic sales might turn to its advantage. Australians love it when one of their own takes on the world and wins,” Abernathy wrote.
After another year’s worldwide haul of top awards and testing results have again put Boundary Bend’s Cobram Estate olive oils at the top of the charts, “the preference pendulum has swung firmly to Australia’s favor,” said writer Sue Neales in the Australian Business Review. Her June 6 story, “Aussie Grower Boundary Bend Olives Eyes the Big Stage” put the exclamation point on Abernethy’s prediction. As of today, Boundary Bend Olives is a $200 million company that supplies its countrymen with 65 percent of the market in high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
The move away from the imports has been informed by a sharp increase in recent years in education about the category of this prized commodity. Growing demand from health-conscious Australian consumers for fresh, local extra virgin olive oil, coupled with testing results that have continued to indicate that many imported brands that claimed to be extra virgin were adulterated with additives and cut with low-grade cottonseed and canola oils, has turned the tide. And now Boundary Bend is eyeing the U.S. consumer.
The company has expanded its operations to California over the past two years, with its U.S.-produced Cobram Estate EVOO already available in 1,000 retail outlets. McGavin told Neale “It’s only a small market and investment for us at this stage — less than 4 percent of our assets — but it’s got huge potential if we can establish ourselves as a trusted reliable brand. The mistrust of food products in the U.S. and the obsession with proven provenance and quality is massive.”
Though he’s been approached by Chinese investors looking to purchase the company, McGavin said the cultural integrity of his business comes first. “Why would we sell to an overseas company? As soon as we look just like any other foreign owned big corporation, I think we are lost. I can’t see any upside.”