`Olive Oil 'Tortas' a Sevillian Export Success - Olive Oil Times

Olive Oil 'Tortas' a Sevillian Export Success

By Julie Butler
Sep. 28, 2012 09:15 UTC

Extra vir­gin olive oil is the only preser­v­a­tive in — and forms a quar­ter of — Spain’s widely exported pas­try Torta de Aceite de Castilleja de la Cuesta.

These olive oil tor­tas — some call them bis­cuits, sweet flat­breads or wafers — have gone from a home-made pas­try eaten in Seville at Easter to sales of about 130 mil­lion units a year and across five con­ti­nents by the Ines Rosales com­pany alone.

There are now var­i­ous ver­sions on the mar­ket but the story goes that the tra­di­tional ones made by Ines Rosales derive from the woman of the same name, who in the vil­lage of Castilleja de la Cuesta in the early 1900s took an old fam­ily recipe and, with the help of local women, started sell­ing the tor­tas at a train sta­tion and major cross­roads.

The recipe is said to remain much the same and — apart from being 27.7 per­cent EVOO — the ingre­di­ents include flour, sugar, yeast, sesame, aniseed, and anise essence.

Today, a 180g (6.3oz) packet of six sells in Spanish depart­ment store El Corte Inglés for €1.40 € ($1.80) and, accord­ing to Ines Rosales export man­ager Antonio Boza, retails for about $4.99 in the US, £2.99 in England and €2.50-€3.00 in Germany and France.

An appli­ca­tion is cur­rently before the European Commission to list Tortas de Aceite de Castilleja de la Cuesta’ as one of Europe’s tra­di­tional spe­cial­i­ties guar­an­teed” (TSG) prod­ucts, part of a scheme to pro­mote and pro­tect the names of qual­ity agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

From Seville, Ines Rosales export man­ager Antonio Boza spoke to Olive Oil Times about the EVOO used in the prod­uct and why the TSG recog­ni­tion is sought.

What kind of EVOO do you use in the tor­tas?

The most impor­tant thing is to main­tain con­sis­tency in the qual­i­ties of the prod­uct over time. Because we seek a bal­ance between prod­uct sta­bil­ity and the fla­vor expected by our con­sumers, we use a mix of olive oil vari­eties to achieve that.

Our EVOO must be fairly mild-tast­ing and have con­sid­er­able oxida­tive sta­bil­ity as it is the only preser­v­a­tive in our tor­tas and forms nearly a quar­ter of the final prod­uct.

Each mas­ter miller knows which of their EVOOs would meet our needs and often olive oil mills have to find sev­eral vari­eties in order to meet our spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Every 20 days we repeat the pur­chase process and each batch is sub­mit­ted to a pro­to­col includ­ing send­ing of a sam­ple, a panel test, and other ver­i­fi­ca­tion that stan­dards are met, includ­ing our require­ment that the oil not be spicy or bit­ter.

You have to ana­lyze every tan­kload because you can’t assume that a sting in the throat or bright green color guar­an­tees qual­ity.

How are your tor­tas eaten?

Their tra­di­tional con­sump­tion in Spain was with cof­fee or tea for break­fast, as a snack any­time, or with a dessert such as crema cata­lana. But inter­est­ingly our export mar­kets are teach­ing us new ways of using them. They are much more ver­sa­tile than we had real­ized!

Some peo­ple now com­bine the sweet tor­tas with ice cream or yogurt, or with a for­ti­fied wine for dessert, or as the base for canapés with cheeses and mar­malades.

The savory ones are used as an accom­pa­ni­ment to cheeses, pâté, and smoked goods, or as an appe­tizer with a beer, wine or gin and tonic.

Why did the Ines Rosales com­pany apply to reg­is­terTortas de Aceite de Castilleja de la Cuesta’ as a tra­di­tional spe­cialty in Europe?

We see it as recog­ni­tion of the unique qual­ity and ori­gin of a prod­uct that this com­pany pio­neered and is the lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive of nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally.

It’s also an asset for mar­ket­ing and pro­vides recog­ni­tion for com­pa­nies that make prod­ucts accord­ing to tra­di­tional, hand-made meth­ods, and with extra vir­gin olive oil, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing us from those mak­ing a lower qual­ity prod­uct that does not meet the EU stan­dards.

There’s a big vari­ety of prod­ucts under the umbrella of Torta de Aceite’ that are all very dif­fer­ent and this makes it hard for con­sumers to dis­tin­guish between them, espe­cially when bought out­side their area of ori­gin.

Castilleja de la Cuesta is the orig­i­nal vil­lage which used a dis­tinct pro­duc­tion method and fur­ther­more its tor­tas de aceite are the ones that have had the biggest global reach.

It will be another mark of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion for us and there­fore help in mar­ket­ing, and no doubt we’ll be the first to hold that dis­tinc­tion.

For those who have yet to try it, the dis­tinc­tion might encour­age them to do so by cer­ti­fy­ing the authen­tic­ity of its ori­gin, tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion method and use of nat­ural ingre­di­ents.

A scan of the inter­net sug­gests tourists often buy these tor­tas in Spain then try to track them down again in their home coun­try. How much of your out­put goes abroad?

We export 20 per­cent of our pro­duc­tion and our main export mar­ket is the USA but we have a pres­ence on five con­ti­nents thanks to exports to Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates.


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