Record Number of NYIOOC Awards for American Producers

Producers from California, Oregon, Texas and Georgia combined to earn 94 awards from 134 entries, despite challenges caused by inflation, supply chain issues and climate.

Photo: Kelsey Chance, Good Chance Creative
Jun. 15, 2022
By Daniel Dawson
Photo: Kelsey Chance, Good Chance Creative

Recent News

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


Olive farm­ers and pro­duc­ers from the United States enjoyed a year of record suc­cess at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition

Forty-five pro­duc­ers from California, Oregon, Texas and Georgia com­bined to win a record-high 94 awards from 134 entries, the sec­ond-high­est total for the coun­try. Their 70-per­cent suc­cess rate was also the high­est for American pro­duc­ers.

Awards always bring recog­ni­tion and approval of a great prod­uct. This is key for con­sumers if we are to change the olive oil cul­ture in America.- Zack Thorp, co-owner, Lot22 Olive Oil

As they do every year, farm­ers and pro­duc­ers had to over­come a range of chal­lenges, from California’s increas­ingly hot and dry cli­mate to record-low tem­per­a­tures in Texas and chal­lenges cre­ated by sup­ply chain issues.

Farming is not for the faint of heart,” Edie Barry, owner of F & B Foods, which pro­duces the Queen of Trees olive oils, told Olive Oil Times. 

See Also:The Best Olive Oils From the United States

The weather is unpre­dictable, and you sweat every freeze, hot spells, strong winds when the olives set and then you have all the furry friends who want to eat through the irri­ga­tion,” she added.

competitions-north-america-production-the-best-olive-oils-record-number-of-nyiooc-awards-for-american-producers-olive-oil-times

Edie Barry

Located in olive oil-soaked San Luis Obispo County, in cen­tral California, Barry and her team earned a Gold Award for a medium blend in their first time enter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

I’m still pinch­ing myself,” Barry said. I’m a small pro­ducer, female-owned, and this recog­ni­tion is a big win for our brand as we con­sider expand­ing. It is a game-changer for us.” 

Winning Gold is huge. It gives you cred­i­bil­ity with retail­ers,” she added. When your extra vir­gin olive oil is next to oth­ers, and you have an NYIOOC Gold, con­sumers reach for your bot­tle. Having that gold stamp on the web­site also dri­ves direct-to-con­sumer sales. It is espe­cially help­ful when con­sumers can’t taste your oil in advance of pur­chase.”

From first-time entrants to NYIOOC vet­er­ans, the plea­sure of tri­umph­ing in the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion does not seem to fade with time. 

Brooke Hazen, the owner of Gold Ridge Organic Farms, earned four Gold Awards this year, which he said was the eighth one for his com­pany at the com­pe­ti­tion.

competitions-north-america-production-the-best-olive-oils-record-number-of-nyiooc-awards-for-american-producers-olive-oil-times

Brooke Hazen

“[I was] really happy and sur­prised, since we won four out of four Golds just a few years ago, and three out of four last year,” the owner of the north­ern California pro­ducer told Olive Oil Times. I have been grate­ful for the acco­lades com­ing our way.”

Located approx­i­mately 80 kilo­me­ters north of San Francisco, Hazen said the cli­mate, ter­roir and lack of extra­or­di­nary chal­lenges” were the keys to another suc­cess­ful har­vest. 

The cool West Sonoma Coast cli­mate and our prox­im­ity to the Pacific Ocean allows a long slow mat­u­ra­tion phase for the olives to develop their inher­ent polyphe­nols, fla­vors, col­ors and nuances,” he said. Our mar­itime cli­mate plus our Gold Ridge soils really offer the per­fect oppor­tu­nity for each vari­ety in our four unique blends to reach their truest expres­sion.”

While the NYIOOC pro­vides small pro­duc­ers the oppor­tu­nity to show off their qual­ity and tell their unique sto­ries, it also gives some of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers the oppor­tu­nity to demon­strate that quan­tity does not nec­es­sar­ily come at the expense of qual­ity.

California Olive Ranch (COR), the largest olive oil pro­ducer in the United States, earned a Gold and two Silver Awards at the 2022 NYIOOC.

competitions-north-america-production-the-best-olive-oils-record-number-of-nyiooc-awards-for-american-producers-olive-oil-times

Photo: California Olive Ranch

Mary Mori, the com­pa­ny’s vice pres­i­dent of qual­ity and research and devel­op­ment, told Olive Oil Times these awards cel­e­brate the hard work and pas­sion of every­one involved, from com­pany exec­u­tives to COR’s olive grower part­ners.

We have always taken great pride in craft­ing high-qual­ity prod­ucts,” she said. The NYIOOC awards are a way for us to cel­e­brate the pas­sion, hard work, and ded­i­ca­tion of our efforts in California and across the globe.”

This recog­ni­tion gives our brands that well-deserved stamp of approval’ from grow­ing prac­tices to har­vest­ing to pro­duc­tion and we are immensely proud of that,” she added.

Like many other pro­duc­ers around the world, Mori said that COR had to over­come var­i­ous sup­ply chain issues through­out the har­vest.

We’ve been chal­lenged with sev­eral of the same issues affect­ing our indus­try, from cost infla­tion to ship­ping to mate­r­ial delays,” she said. However, our team has worked tire­lessly to keep every­thing in stock and on shelves.”

While the vast major­ity of win­ning U.S. pro­duc­ers at the NYIOOC hail from cen­tral and north­ern California, less tra­di­tional regions of the Golden State were also rep­re­sented at the com­pe­ti­tion.

Olive oil in south­ern California is a lost art,” Zach Thorp, the co-owner of Lot22 located just east of Los Angeles, told Olive Oil Times.

competitions-north-america-production-the-best-olive-oils-record-number-of-nyiooc-awards-for-american-producers-olive-oil-times

Photo: Lot22

Grape vines and pock­ets of olive groves dot the land and thrive in the soil and Mediterranean-style cli­mate,” he added. If pre­served and expanded, they have shown a very unique prod­uct that is being rec­og­nized by world-renowned judges as evi­dent in our most recent awards at the NYIOOC.”

In its third year at the com­pe­ti­tion, Lot22 earned two awards, includ­ing Gold for a medium Arbequina and a Silver Award for a del­i­cate Koroneiki.

Thorp par­tially attrib­uted this year’s suc­cess to the region’s unique micro­cli­mate, which has hosted olive grow­ers for more than a cen­tury. 

We are set in a very spe­cific micro­cli­mate in south­ern California that has her­itage roots for grow­ing olives dat­ing back 100 years, but has been dom­i­nated by cit­rus in the last cen­tury because of water acqui­si­tion,” he said. 

Currently, with water being a sig­nif­i­cant issue for California, we are see­ing the ele­ments of our micro­cli­mate begin to take cen­ter stage for sus­tain­able crops like olives in a water-chal­lenged envi­ron­ment,” he added. 

Despite the oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sented to olive grow­ers as a result of cli­mate change, Thorp added that it also presents plenty of chal­lenges. 

The cli­mate is not the same as it was five years ago and we are con­stantly need­ing to net­work with other California grow­ers in order to prob­lem solve an ever-grow­ing issue,” he said. In addi­tion the har­vest, while always a chal­lenge, has become a much pricier and chal­leng­ing aspect of olive grow­ing due to the Covid-19 pan­demic and econ­omy.”

With all these chal­lenges pil­ing up for pro­duc­ers, Thorp said the role that awards play for the com­pany becomes increas­ingly impor­tant.

Awards always bring recog­ni­tion and approval of a great prod­uct,” he said. This is key for con­sumers if we are to change the olive oil cul­ture in America to fresh olive oil as opposed to typ­i­cal gro­cery store’ olive oils that do not pro­mote fresh­ness, timely har­vest, mill dates or tast­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.”

While California dom­i­nates the U.S. olive oil pro­duc­tion, high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil is pro­duced across a wide swath of the coun­try. 

The pro­duc­ers behind Texas Hill Country Olive Company earned two Silver Awards once against the com­pe­ti­tion, a feat made all the more remark­able after unsea­son­able cold and frost in February 2021 dam­aged the vast major­ity of the state’s olive trees. 

Even far­ther east, in Georgia, Five Otters earned a Gold Award for a medium blend of Koroneiki, Arbequina, and Arbosana olives.

Growing olives is new to this region in Georgia and my hope is this achieve­ment encour­ages more grow­ers in the area,” owner Sharon Flanagan told Olive Oil Times. I look for­ward to shar­ing this award in our rural com­mu­nity where it will be most appre­ci­ated.”

She added that this year’s award did not come with­out its chal­lenges. Heavy rains and lim­ited avail­abil­ity at the local mill com­pli­cated the har­vest, forc­ing the com­pany to have three sep­a­rate har­vests.

Back on the west coast, Paul Durant, owner of Durant Olive Mill, cel­e­brated win­ning four more awards at the NYIOOC. 

competitions-north-america-production-the-best-olive-oils-record-number-of-nyiooc-awards-for-american-producers-olive-oil-times

Photo: Kelsey Chance, Good Chance Creative

It was the sev­enth con­sec­u­tive tri­umph for the pio­neer­ing Oregonian olive oil pro­ducer, who brought his total tally of awards from the com­pe­ti­tion up to 20. 

While I come to expect get­ting the awards, it cer­tainly does not make it any less grat­i­fy­ing,” he told Olive Oil Times. My entire team works really hard and to see that hard work pay off with such recog­ni­tion makes all of us feel good. It is such a val­i­da­tion of the atten­tion to detail we focus on through­out the year.”

Despite the suc­cess, Durant added that the har­vest came with some dis­ap­point­ment. Originally he had hoped to pro­duce 500 gal­lons (2,300 liters) of extra vir­gin olive oil but fell about 40 per­cent shy of this total.

Overall, it was a tough har­vest yield-wise,” he said. The rains in California, same as here in Oregon, put a lot of water into the fruit and that made extrac­tion dif­fi­cult. I got some good guid­ance from a mill in California, and we were able to improve yield towards the end of the run.”

However, Durant has not allowed any of this to dampen his sense of opti­mism about the future. 

Aside from that, the improve­ments to the mill were great and elim­i­nated a lot of stress on me and my crew,” he con­cluded. I am doing another big equip­ment upgrade this year that should be another big step for­ward.”


Olive Oil Times Video Series
Advertisement

Related Articles

Feedback / Suggestions