With 25 awards so far, Spain and Italy lead this year's ranking at the world's most prestigious olive oil quality contest, which is unveiling the results throughout the week.
Spain, along with Italy, leads the early ranking of award-winning olive oil producing countries at the 2020 edition of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, which is rolling out the results this week on its official website.
So far, the European country has won a total amount of 25 awards: 22 Gold and three Silver. The results will continue to be unveiled every day this week, the organizers said.
We are very happy, especially for our distributor in the United States, who was really excited about it and who is making a big effort in these difficult times
An international panel of experts was able to judge the quality of the 881 entries from 26 countries that were submitted in the eighth edition of the contest before registration closed.See more: More From the 2020 NYIOOC
Spain participated with 141 entries, second only to Italy, with 195, and ahead of Greece, with 125.
In an environment of economic uncertainty, award-winning Spanish producers pointed out that this recognition of quality is more important than ever.
“We’ve been participating at the NYIOOC for many years, I guess since its first edition, and we have been introducing more varieties of olive oil every year,” said Marco Molinari, commercial director of Sucesores de Hermanos López, the producer of Morellana olive oil.
“This is very important for us because the American market is a key one and winning an award in New York is very positive,” he added. “Prizes are the best way to show to the wider public that not all olive oils are the same. They are an important tool.”
Sucesores de Hermanos López is a small producer based in Luque, a village in the Córdoba province.
Their brand, Morellana, won three Gold Awards at this year’s edition of the NYIOOC, one for its Picual, one for its Hojiblanca and one for its Picuda, a local cultivar mainly produced in the area.
Javier Márquez, executive director of Agropecuaria Ecología Sierra de Alcaraz, agreed that the recognition at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition is important under the current situation, especially, for the American market.
“We are very happy, especially for our distributor in the United States, who was really excited about it and who is making a big effort in these difficult times,” Márquez told Olive Oil Times.
“This award may help in the difficult situation we have due to the increase in taxes and the coronavirus crisis,” he added.
Agropecuaria Ecología Sierra de Alcaraz is the producer of the organic Almazara de Alcaraz, whose blend won a Gold Award at the 2020 NYIOOC.
Based in Alcaraz, a village in the province of Albacete, in Castilla-La Mancha, their production comes from the association of more than 100 organic small producers from the area.
Márquez said that this award is important for customers and importers, but he also pointed out its importance for the farmers.
“This matters for our associated farmers, for those who are sweating in the olive groves, because they see that at the olive mill we are making a good oil thanks to the great product they harvest,” he said. “That’s a big satisfaction.”
José Gálvez, manager of Oro Bailén, one of the most well-established producers in Jaén, Spain’s main producing province, said consistency and hard work are important when it comes to quality.
“You have to believe in what you do and try to obtain the highest quality every year,” he told Olive Oil Times. “That’s our constant objective. Each harvest has its own particularities, but we try to make the most out of it in order to make one of the best olive oils in the world.”
Oro Bailén’s olive oil won four Gold Awards at this year’s NYIOOC. This success builds on successes achieved by the company at previous editions of the competition. In 2019, they won a Best in Class Award, two Gold Awards and one Silver at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Spain is the largest olive oil producer in the world. Although the last campaign was significantly smaller than the previous one, the country produced more than one-third of the world’s total production with some 1.1 million tons.
When asked about Spain’s performance at the NYIOOC, producers highlighted the remarkable amount of awards the country won and how this success confirms the increasing quality of the Spanish olive oil.
“Spain is doing very well,” Molinari, of Sucesores de Hermanos López, said. “In the last 15 to 20 years it has improved the quality of its oils in an impressive way. That is reflected in the prizes Spain wins at international competitions. Spain has improved a lot.”
“The challenge now is to keep increasing that quality,” he added. “Small producers such as ourselves need to specialize and to constantly improve our quality. We cannot compete with large producers who use different growing techniques, such as super-intensive plantations, which are more profitable.”
Gálvez, of Oro Bailén, agreed that betting on quality is key for the future and shared a message of optimism in the face of the present difficulties.
“I think all this situation will surely pass and we will be back on track,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has led people to pay attention mostly to bad news. Let’s hope that good news such as this won’t be overlooked.”