Best Year Yet for Tunisian Producers at World Competition

The North African country’s producers won a record-setting number of awards at the competition and achieved their highest success rate.
Photo: Olivko
Jul. 11, 2022
Lisa Anderson

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


Producers from Tunisia tri­umphed at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, win­ning a record-set­ting 32 awards and achiev­ing the North African coun­try’s high­est-ever suc­cess rate of 80 per­cent.

Tunisian brands earned 21 Gold Awards and 11 Silver Awards at this year’s edi­tion of the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion, despite bear­ing the brunt of cli­mate change in recent months.

Tunisia’s suc­cess at the pres­ti­gious World Competition in New York con­sti­tutes a recog­ni­tion of the excel­lent qual­ity of Tunisian olive oil.- Mahmoud Elias Hamza, Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries Minister

Tunisia’s suc­cess at the pres­ti­gious World Competition in New York con­sti­tutes a recog­ni­tion of the excel­lent qual­ity of Tunisian olive oil,” Tunisian Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries Minister Mahmoud Elias Hamza told Olive Oil Times.

It is the con­fir­ma­tion of the efforts of the gov­ern­ment and stake­hold­ers in the olive sec­tor of Tunisia for devel­op­ing the qual­ity [of our olive oil],” he added.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Tunisia

Hamza said that in many coun­tries, the health ben­e­fits of olive oil are still not widely-known, but that is start­ing to change.

Producers in Tunisia are opti­mistic – given the growth in demand recorded dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic – and we are sure that com­pe­ti­tions [such as the NYIOOC] pro­mote olive oil and its nutri­tional value to the con­sumer,” he said. Tunisia is one of the lead­ers in high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

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He attrib­uted Tunisia’s ter­roir to the coun­try’s suc­cess as a world-class pro­ducer but admit­ted cli­mate change remains the main threat to olive oil pro­duc­ers.

Like this cam­paign with a pro­duc­tion of only 240,000 tons of olive oil, com­pared to the record of 440,000 tons in 2019/2020,” he said, high­light­ing the effects of cli­mate change on pro­duc­tion vol­umes.

Despite this, good pro­duc­tion prac­tices and exper­tise in qual­ity con­trol con­tributed to the suc­cess of Tunisian extra vir­gin olive oils in dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing the World Olive Oil Competition in New York,” Hamza added.

Hamza is con­fi­dent the awards will con­tribute sig­nif­i­cantly to the rep­u­ta­tion of Tunisian olive oil and expand the mar­ket for export­ing their oils to the United States, which his depart­ment iden­ti­fied as the lead­ing importer and con­sumer mar­ket out­side the European Union.

Ben Ayed Salah, the owner of Tunisian brand Domaine Adonis, earned three Gold Awards for Arbosana and Chetoui mono­va­ri­etals and a blend.

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Domain Adonis

He said his com­pany had its sights set on the lucra­tive U.S. mar­ket after his vic­tory in New York.

We are very proud and excited after win­ning the NYIOOC for the third con­sec­u­tive year,” he told Olive Oil Times. It high­lights the qual­ity of our oils inter­na­tion­ally, and we look for­ward to enter­ing the American mar­ket.”

Olivko, one of Tunisia’s biggest win­ners at the 2022 NYIOOC, took home five awards for its organic extra vir­gin olive oils.

The com­pany earned three Golds for its robust Chetoui, medium-inten­sity Chemlali and medium-inten­sity Wild Cultivar; and two Silvers for its del­i­cate and medium-inten­sity Chetoui extra vir­gin olive oils.

I had exactly the same feel­ing as I had in 2019 when I won Best in Class [an award cat­e­gory that has since been dis­con­tin­ued],” Karim Fitouri, the founder and owner of Olivko, said shortly after learn­ing about his suc­cess at this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Fitouri said it will always be every­one’s dream” to receive the indus­try’s most cov­eted qual­ity award.

We need to under­stand what com­pe­ti­tions mean alto­gether,” he told Olive Oil Times, adding that con­sumers need to know which oils they can trust.

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Karim Fitouri

And the NYIOOC does exactly that. It gives con­sumers peace of mind that an oil is good [qual­ity],” he said. For my brand, win­ning year in and year out con­firms we are here to stay.”

Fitouri has mas­tered the process of cre­at­ing high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, sourc­ing the best olives from across Tunisia to cre­ate his award-win­ning oils.

I then press them myself and con­trol the whole process myself to get what I want to give to my clients,” he said.

However, Fitouri does not believe any given coun­try’s oil is bet­ter than anoth­er’s.

There are no bor­ders in olive oils,” he said, adding that when con­sumers decide which coun­try’s oils they want to buy, they should base their deci­sion on the desired char­ac­ter­is­tics and cul­ti­vars.

Fitouri added that Tunisian pro­duc­ers had to con­tend with extreme heat dur­ing the last har­vest sea­son. He said they need more edu­ca­tion on har­vest­ing tech­niques and more acces­si­ble trans­porta­tion for their olives.

There are a lot of prob­lems, but they are improv­ing,” he said.

However, even though the rep­u­ta­tion of Tunisian pro­duc­ers is improv­ing inter­na­tion­ally, Fitouri said some hit a wall after craft­ing award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils.

Some buy­ers from the rest of the world aren’t will­ing to pay a fair price for their extra vir­gin olive oil,” he said. When they look at Tunisia, they want cheap oil. And we know what cheap means: low qual­ity. So when pro­duc­ers make high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, they can’t sell it.”

Another NYIOOC-win­ning pro­ducer focused on the inter­na­tional mar­ket is Sfax-based La Société Agricole d’Innovation, which won a Gold Award for its Golden Spoon brand, a del­i­cate organic Chetoui.

We feel very proud and hon­ored for us to win an award at this year’s NYIOOC,” Walid Hachicha, pro­duc­tion man­ager for La Société Agricole d’Innovation, told Olive Oil Times. The award isn’t just to rec­og­nize the qual­ity of our olive oil, but it rewards us for all the hard work we put in to share our oil with our con­sumers.”

The award con­firms the qual­ity [of our olive oil] and our com­pe­tence in the har­vest­ing and pro­duc­ing our olive oil,” he added. It also ensures that our olive oil has the experts on its side.”

For Hachicha and the rest of his team, win­ning awards at inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions helps raise brand aware­ness in Canada, where the com­pany imports most of its pro­duc­tion. However, focus­ing on the kind of qual­ity that wins awards does mean sac­ri­fic­ing quan­tity.

We focus on a nutri­ent-dense olive oil filled with polyphe­nols,” Hachicha said. We do so by ensur­ing we hand­pick our early har­vest and cold press our olive oil.”

Because we har­vest our olives early, it results in less olive oil pro­duc­tion com­pared to a late har­vest,” he added. This puts finan­cial pres­sure on our pro­duc­tion but allows us to stick by our val­ues – deliv­er­ing high-phe­no­lic extra vir­gin olive oil.”


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