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How Terra Creta Makes and Markets Olive Oil

Oct. 22, 2012
Julie Butler

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The results deter­mine which of Terra Creta’s three main set­tling silos they will end up in.

The prod­uct of two years’ research, this grad­ing sys­tem is cru­cial for the new pre­mium line of max­i­mum 0.2 acid­ity EVOO to be offered for the first time by Terra Creta this sea­son.

It is also used for an incen­tive scheme designed to get farm­ers to aim for bet­ter qual­ity whereby they are paid a €0.05 – 0.10/kg bonus for oil of up to 0.2 per­cent acid­ity.

The aver­age acid­ity of all oil processed in the mill last year was 0.4 per­cent. The extra vir­gin limit is 0.8 per­cent.

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Locally-designed mill

Built in 2009 at a cost of €4million ($5.25m) includ­ing the land, Terra Creta’s state-of-the-art con­tin­u­ous pro­cess­ing plant can make 50 tons of olive oil a day. There’s gen­er­ally a 5 to 1 ratio of fruit to oil con­ver­sion.

Apart from an Italian cen­trifuge sep­a­ra­tor and 2‑phase German cen­trifuge decanter, it was designed and made on Crete, Sousalis said.

There were some teething prob­lems in the first har­vest but he said the plant now runs opti­mally. Terra Creta is very proud of the design, which facil­i­tates trace­abil­ity and fea­tures a high level of water recy­cling.

Blending and bot­tling

The com­pany says it sells all of its pro­duc­tion but some is kept each year to blend with the new oil in the early har­vest months. Known as back-blend­ing, this is done solely for con­sis­tency, Sousalis said.

It’s so we don’t send some­one an oil that is super-strong because they ordered dur­ing har­vest in November and then in March they get a mild one.”

The com­pany also adjusts its oil blend accord­ing to mar­ket tastes. Our cus­tomers in the US con­sume milder olive oil than those in Germany, so you need to take this into account if you want to be suc­cess­ful.”

The com­pany ships to far des­ti­na­tions such as China and Australia but break­age is rare. Any that does occur is usu­ally in minus zero weather over­land to Belgium and Scandinavia.

Italian bot­tles are pre­ferred, because their qual­ity is bet­ter than the Greek ones.” Tins are also used, but mainly for the French mar­ket and food ser­vice sec­tor. Terra Creta says its oil has an 18 – 24 month shelf life.

New prod­ucts: olives in olive oil, gift sets, table olives and olive paste

An extra vir­gin olive oil with real olives inside the bot­tle has flown off the shelves in launch mar­ket Brazil and will soon be sold else­where, includ­ing the US. It’s our best seller in Brazil, which was a big sur­prise for us” Sousalis said.

Having a few olives inside the bot­tle has a strong visual impact but it’s more for the fruitier taste. The Brazilians put it on pizza after it’s cooked.”

The com­pany is also mov­ing into table olive and olive paste sales on an out­sourced basis next year and plans a range of cor­po­rate gift sets.

High alti­tude olive oil: Tsounati

Terra Creta’s pro­duc­tion has so far come from the Koroneiki olive abun­dant in Greece but it has a longer term plan to offer an EVOO from the Tsounati vari­ety mainly found above 350m in Hania.

Crete’s ancient olive tree of Vouves — esti­mated to be 3,000 years old — is of this vari­ety, which Sousalis said makes for an olive oil that’s rich yet not spicy, so ideal for those who love mild olive oil.”

But we need a spe­cial way of har­vest­ing. Because of the slopes, the farm­ers lay nets and wait for the olives to drop. But they can’t check every day and so many end up rot­ting and only pro­duce vir­gin or lam­pante oil.”

Pruning will again be key, grad­u­ally reduc­ing tree heights so har­vest­ing is eas­ier and stag­ger­ing ripen­ing so more extra vir­gin can be made.

EVOO as a func­tional food and energy shot

Terra Creta sees a big future in mar­ket­ing EVOO as a func­tional food.

In the same way milk is enriched — such as with vit­a­min D for preg­nant women — it envi­sions olive oil com­bined with other health-pro­mot­ing, nat­ural ingre­di­ents to tar­get cer­tain groups, such as those with cho­les­terol prob­lems.

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