It’s harvest season in the world of California olive oil, and the industry is hard focused on production. While the shared goal to produce the best quality oil is tantamount, producers must keep reaching forward to ensure continued success in California’s olive oil explosion. California Olive Ranch (COR), America’s largest grower and processor of olive oil, is doing just that as it leads California olive oil into a new year and lifts the region to the next level.
COR plans to ring in 2011 with some exciting changes, beginning with the unveiling of a rebranded family of products. Consumers will start to see COR’s Everyday California Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil as well as its specialty olive oils in a new, square bottle. The company conducted research and focus groups before deciding on this bottle’s modern look and easy to handle shape. Not only did the bottles get a make-over, they will feature an improved freshness label complete with stand-out harvest and best by dates. Labels will reflect COR’s freshness recommendation of 18 months to two years when stored under optimal conditions.
The new label information includes a lot code which gives COR oils complete traceability. From any bottle’s lot code, explains marketing manager Kirsten Wanket, “we can literally tell you the entire chain of events from the grower to the distributer to the retailer, every step of the way, even weather and irrigation patterns.” Amazing as the technology is, its bigger purpose is to provide the consumer with the information necessary to make an informed decision. The olive oil label is a valuable tool in consumer education especially as unscrupulous producers continue to crowd market shelves with poor quality oils.
In addition to the rebranding, COR has plans to analyze its website this January with the objective of educating consumers because, as Wanket believes, “That’s where it starts.” Teaching consumers to recognize quality extra virgin olive oil is a shared commitment of California producers. The olive oil industry as a whole is sure to benefit from COR’s online education campaign because its growing visibility and presence on high profile supermarket shelves has great potential to draw consumers to its site.
So far mostly concentrated in the American West, COR’s distribution is expanding. A New England launch brought tremendous feedback says Wanket who attributes the response to an increasingly sophisticated olive oil market that wants quality products from the US. The New England reception came as no surprise to Wanket who says, “We go to markets that understand quality.” COR continues to look for new growing partners to increase its more than 10,000 acres of olives to meet retail demand. Led by Vice President of Orchard Services, Adam C. Englehardt, they’re seeing a lot of growers who are interested in crops, such as olives, that use less water.
Despite its size and growing success, COR remains remarkably down to earth. “We may be the largest,” says Wanket, “but we Americans still import 99 percent of our olive oil. In the grand scheme of things, we’re still a blip on the map.” COR stands united with the mostly boutique producers that make up California’s diverse olive oil industry in a shared vision to grow domestic production and educate consumers.