At Zeet, Quality Is a Family Business

The company produces its own olive oils in Tunisia, Spain and Italy using knowledge gleaned over four generations.

Daly Hamdi, Zeet
By Paolo DeAndreis
Feb. 22, 2023 14:10 UTC
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Daly Hamdi, Zeet

In the heart of Tunisia, olive trees have thrived for cen­turies. There, thou­sands of trees have defied water scarcity and other cli­mate issues and allowed the Hamdi fam­ily to pro­duce extra vir­gin olive oils for the last four gen­er­a­tions.

Today, under their Zeet brand, the Hamdi fam­ily ships high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils to Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Their extra vir­gin olive oils have won the indus­try’s most cov­eted awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

In Tunisia, Zeet means olive oil, and that is the name we chose when we estab­lished our com­pany in the United Kingdom in 2016,” Daly Hamdi, owner of EVOO Zeet, told Olive Oil Times.

I was in U.K. in those years, work­ing in the bank­ing sec­tor, as we real­ized that there was no Tunisian qual­ity olive oil in the coun­try,” he added. According to Hamdi, Zeet intro­duced some of the first Tunisian olive oils.

Even in New York, at the NYIOOC, Zeet was among the very first Tunisian pro­duc­ers to score an award in 2017,” he recalled.

The major­ity of Hamdi’s olive oil is pro­duced in Tunisia by his extended fam­ily. If we look at the over­all pro­duc­tion in my fam­ily, we prob­a­bly reach the 50 tons of olive oil on aver­age. Still, the Zeet brand, which is entirely focused on high qual­ity and organic pro­duc­tion, accounts for approx­i­mately 25 tons or so,” Hamdi said.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-business-africa-middle-east-at-zeet-quality-is-a-family-business-olive-oil-times

My dad is there, tak­ing care of our olive orchards, just like his par­ents did before him,” he added.

Hamdi’s par­ents can count on approx­i­mately ten thou­sand trees. In addi­tion to the older trees, the fam­ily has planted new olive orchards and expanded pro­duc­tion and added new olive vari­eties to exist­ing orchards.

We do have some Arbequina there or Koroneiki, but we stick to the tra­di­tional and local cul­ti­vars. Our farms are in the vicini­ties of the city of Kairouan, a province where most of the trees come from the Chemlali vari­ety, a tree which is highly resilient to dry con­di­tions,” Hamdi noted.

See Also:Gold for Tunisia Heralds Start of New Beginning

About 80 per­cent of Hamdi’s olives in Tunisia come from the Chemlali cul­ti­var. Its olive oil has a unique and mild char­ac­ter,” he added.

Other vari­eties grown by the com­pany include the Tunisian Chétoui, a renowned and typ­i­cally north­ern Tunisian cul­ti­var known for the more robust fla­vors of its olive oils.

Besides the Tunisian oper­a­tions, Zeet has recently part­nered with high-qual­ity pro­duc­ers in regions of Spain and Italy, such as Andalusia, Catalonia and Sicily.

The search for more fla­vors and cul­ti­vars is strictly con­nected to cus­tomer pref­er­ences. What I have seen in these few years in the U.K. is that when you give cus­tomers the choice, they ini­tially will go for our high-qual­ity mild olive oils,” said Hamdi.

Still, if you talk to them and make them taste the bit­ter and the fla­vors of our best EVOOs, it is not hard to con­quer them,” he added.

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Hamdi explained that food resellers of Zeet’s EVOOs in the U.K. mar­ket had been trained to explain the dif­fer­ences to cus­tomers and help them taste the many avail­able olive oil fla­vors.

In the end, I would say that we are offer­ing our cus­tomers mild EVOOs from our Tunisian farms. But we are also ship­ping Picual, that I would define as medium, and the EVOOs from Sicily as our more intense EVOOs,” he added.

See Also:The Best Tunisian Olive Oils

As an olive oil pro­ducer in sev­eral coun­tries, Hamdi believes water scarcity is the most per­ti­nent chal­lenge grow­ers face. In the last two years in Tunisia, water avail­abil­ity dropped con­sis­tently. As cli­mate change goes fur­ther, that is an issue which is being increas­ingly impor­tant in Tunisia as well as in the other regions such as in Spain and in Italy,” he noted.

The costs of oil pro­duc­tion and how it impacts extra vir­gin olive oil prices also remain chal­leng­ing for Zeet.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-business-africa-middle-east-at-zeet-quality-is-a-family-business-olive-oil-times

Zeet groves

It is not only olive oil pro­duc­tion that is cost­ing more, but that is also true for the bot­tles, the labels and the ship­ping itself,” Hamdi under­lined, hint­ing at a sit­u­a­tion that has become even more com­plex after Brexit.

Before Brexit, we could ship a pal­let of olive oil from Spain or Italy to the U.K. at approx­i­mately £250. Today, ship­ping from Sicily to U.K. might cost up to £600,” Hamdi noted.

According to Hamdi, the price of the end prod­uct sold to con­sumers can­not sky­rocket along with pro­duc­tion costs. If we raise the prices to cover the grow­ing costs, they will prob­a­bly reach a level that will mean a decrease in vol­umes sold, as many cus­tomers would not be able to afford it,” Hamdi said.

Yet, the unique healthy prop­er­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil help high-qual­ity pro­duc­ers in such a chal­leng­ing mar­ket. People today know more about the prod­uct; there is a grow­ing under­stand­ing, a grow­ing aware­ness of its healthy pro­file. Still, the most rel­e­vant accel­er­a­tor for us are the awards won at the inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions such as New York,” Hamdi under­lined.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-business-africa-middle-east-at-zeet-quality-is-a-family-business-olive-oil-times

Daly Hamdi

While many cus­tomers look for spe­cific prod­ucts, the great major­ity of them will look at the awards we have won. They greatly help us in estab­lish­ing trust,” he added.

Providing an organic choice is also help­ing sales of Zeet’s EVOOs. I would say that sell­ing organic EVOOs might be sim­pler than con­ven­tional. And if we look at pro­duc­tion costs, grow­ing organic does not con­sti­tute a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence when com­pared to con­ven­tional grow­ing,” Hamdi noted.

To fur­ther expand Zeet pro­duc­tions and include more fla­vors, the U.K.-based pro­ducer is now look­ing at estab­lish­ing new part­ner­ships in Croatia and Portugal.

We are explor­ing these oppor­tu­ni­ties, as there are some excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced there. In three or four months, we should define a part­ner­ship in Croatia,” Hamdi noted.

Croatian olive oil is still mostly unknown in the U.K., and our cus­tomers are always inter­ested to explore new high-qual­ity options,” he con­cluded.


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