TJ Ushing/UC Davis

Olive oil importers, producers and chefs, among others, will gather next month at the Robert Mondavi Institute to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the high end of the extra virgin olive oil sector.

Most producers adhere to the myth that if you have an excellent product it will sell itself. This is so far from the truth.- Karen Bond, Bondolio

“This event is not just about extra virgin that reaches the minimum standard, but about the best olive oils out there,” Dan Flynn, the director of the UC Davis Olive Center and one of the speakers at the event, told Olive Oil Times. “It’s about the flavors, opportunities and challenges that consumers and producers are facing in accessing that oil.”

The idea for the event came out of some discussions that Jean-Xavier Guinard, a professor of food science and technology at UC Davis, had with Paolo Pasquali, the owner of Oleoteca Villa Campestri.

UC Davis had hosted similar events in the past but had not done so in 10 years. The pair envisioned this event as an update on what is going on with premium olive oil.

“All my efforts in the olive oil world, are [aimed at] creating strategies and instruments to take olive oil from cost to profit,” Pasquali told Olive Oil Times. He will give the keynote presentation at the event and discuss how his olive oil-centric resort in Italy turns all of the costs of producing high-quality olive oil into profit.

“My speech will be about the history of Oleoteca Villa Campestri,” he said. “Producers will love the system [and] at the same time they will be encouraged to reach the highest standard in olive oil production.”

Pasquali said that he is also looking forward to meeting potential investors in California.

Guinard will be presenting his findings from a recent study at the event, which looked at a variety of recipes that were prepared both with olive oil and with butter. Guinard, in collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America then did a consumer test on which of these recipe variations consumers preferred.

“The upshot was that, depending on the preparation, consumers sometimes preferred butter and sometimes olive oil,” Flynn said. “It will be pretty interesting for this audience to hear about those results.”

One of the overarching themes of the event will be talking about marketing and selling high quality extra virgin olive oils, so as to make producing these oils worth the time and effort. On that front, Karen Bond, the co-owner of Bondolio, will discuss how her company has been able to do just that.

“I will be speaking about all the steps a producer needs to take to get their extra virgin olive oil onto retail shelves as well as food service,” she told Olive Oil Times. “Most producers adhere to the myth that if you have an excellent product it will sell itself. This is so far from the truth. There is a methodical process to successfully selling oil.”

“If steps are missed, the chances are higher that you will not sell your oil and will have leftover oil by your next harvest,” she added. “I hope to teach producers this simple process.”

Darrell Corti, an olive oil retailer in San Francisco, is scheduled to discuss the evolution of consumer awareness of olive oil. He will be followed by Richard Armanino, an importer for ItalFoods, who will talk about the challenges and opportunities of importing olive oil.

Greg Drescher, the vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at the Culinary Institute of America, will then talk about how producers can maximize the shelf space available for their products as well as give some perspective from the hospitality industry point of view.

“Greg was out there from the beginning in pushing this whole focus on premium extra virgin olive oil,” Flynn said. “It will be interesting to see how he is viewing it from a broad culinary perspective, dealing with shelf space, fine dining and the whole hospitality sector.”

The day will end with a conversation about how producers can process this information and how the industry can continue to move the premium end of the extra virgin olive oil sector forward.

“My sense is that what we will get out oil this is a reflection of how this industry has evolved over the past 10 years, in terms of the higher end of the quality spectrum and examining the challenges that remain for producers,” Flynn said.

The Olive Oil Day will take place on October 12 at the Robert Mondavi Institute in Davis, California. Admission is $50 and the last day to register online is October 5.


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