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Greek Producers Look Beyond Gold

Feb. 24, 2014
Marissa Tejada

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It is not just a pas­sion; it is our life. It’s hard work, but once we taste the prod­uct we for­get the rest.”

Frances Ritsi, founder of Olea Juice reflects on one moment that can only hap­pen after a day’s work of hand pick­ing and select­ing olives in an olive grove located in the Peloponnese region of Greece. There, his team sits around the table at the mill with fresh hot bread in hand ready to dip it into the first flow from the extrac­tion of pure Greek olive oil. Ritsi said this is one of the loveli­est parts of pro­duc­ing his New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) award-win­ning olive oil.
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Our groves sit on a hill 400m (1,300 feet) above the Mediterranean, where the sea breeze touches the land’s nature. It is sim­ply unfor­get­table.”

What’s in a Name

Ritsi said Greek olive oil is pure and sim­ple and that’s how the name Olea Juice came to life.

What most peo­ple do not know is an olive is a fruit and that olive oil is actu­ally a juice,” He also points out he chose the sci­en­tific word olea because it can be under­stood in many lan­guages for some­thing asso­ci­ated with olive oil.


I like names that speak for them­selves. By choos­ing our name we aimed to honor the tree and its fruit because we would not be stand­ing here if it was­n’t for the olive tree.”

Aris Xenofos, the founder of AiQ, another NYIOOC Gold Medal Winner from Greece also had searched for a name that spoke for itself. He was inspired by the sim­ple let­ters of IQ and EQ, which he said reflects intel­li­gence in mind and cre­ativ­ity in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

Q stands for qual­ity and A for a prime posi­tion as it is the first let­ter in alpha­bet. I wanted these notions to be equally reflected on our logo,” said Xenofos.

Meanwhile, the AiQ bot­tle boasts a num­ber that aims to edu­cate.

The 0.5 which shows promi­nently on our prod­uct came as an idea after real­iz­ing the lack of knowl­edge peo­ple have about how extra vir­gin olive oil is defined. So we wanted to help the con­sumer grad­u­ally demand to know the acid­ity of the olive oil he con­sumes. Although acid­ity is not the only qual­i­ta­tive fac­tor, it hap­pens to be the most pop­u­lar.”

Xenofos said AiQ actu­ally has an acid­ity of 0.3 but the 0.5 level was cho­sen for the bottle’s label to show that 0.5 will never be exceeded even after AiQ is bot­tled in its spe­cially cho­sen dark black and green bot­tle that pro­tects it from light.

Changing the Market

Successfully mar­ket­ing bot­tled pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil is some­thing that both Olea Juice and AiQ believe will raise Greece’s image in the inter­na­tional mar­ket.

Frances said his com­pany has spent over 100 hours of tast­ing to choose the exact blend.

The fact is that 95 per­cent of Greek olive oil is exported in bulk as a com­mod­ity and, as a result, it loses its Greek iden­tity on its way to the con­sumer. My hope is to show­case just how qual­ity Greek olive oil is.”

Xenofos said Greek olive oil has supe­rior qual­i­ties and that is why coun­tries like Italy and Spain blend it into their own olive oils. He said the aroma, den­sity, fla­vor and the color of Greek olive oil can­not be found in other parts of the world.

AiQ and its exquis­ite result did not come up by luck. We vis­ited a num­ber of olive groves and tasted and tested olive oils. We met with fam­i­lies that go back three gen­er­a­tions in the olive oil busi­ness and have a long his­tory and expe­ri­ence in cul­ti­va­tion. We audited oil mills with regard to their pro­duc­tion line and stor­age con­di­tions.”

Passion Matters

With a solid mar­ket­ing plan and indus­try recog­ni­tion in check, both com­pa­nies are look­ing ahead. Olea Juice has come out with seven new prod­ucts for 2014 and will con­tinue to seek new dis­trib­u­tors and part­ners. AiQ also aims to increase its pres­ence in more inter­na­tional mar­kets.

Both founders say that their award-win­ning suc­cess so far is a cul­mi­na­tion of hard work and pas­sion. Two qual­i­ties that they believe will help con­sumers world­wide dis­tin­guish their prod­ucts and what they stand for.

AiQ began from my love for Greece, the Greek peo­ple, what the land pro­duces and its his­tory. Through qual­ity, inno­va­tion, con­tin­ued cre­ativ­ity and good work we can con­tinue to bring a supe­rior prod­uct, hail­ing from Greece to the mar­ket,” said Xenofos.

Here in Greece, olive oil is within our every­day life,” said Ritsi. It’s not just as a prod­uct; it’s part of a lifestyle. That’s why I believe every Greek pro­ducer who makes an hon­est effort in the olive oil indus­try deserves admi­ra­tion and applause.”

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