'Spectacular increase' in demand for California EVOO

"Spectacular increase" in demand for California EVOO

2018/04/05 - The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) held its annual meeting and trade show on April 27 - 28 in Monterey with over 190 growers, producers, and service providers in attendance. The meeting included business, research, and legislative updates, sensory sessions, and grower workshops, highlighting a forecast of 20,000 additional acres to be planted by the end of 2020 on the current 40,000 acres noting the dramatic increase in demand for California Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Simultaneously, the trade show showcased 27 trade service providers and sponsors, from those selling bulk olive oil to packaging and glass manufacturers to equipment suppliers. The group roundly applauded the COOC’s report on past year’s achievements including the record number of oils certified oils—almost 500 submissions.

Adding to the festive nature of the meeting, the results of the COOC Annual Olive Oil Competition were announced. The competition drew 174 submissions. COOC judges from the organization’s certification tasting panel, awarded Best in Show—large production to Pacific Sun for its Proprietor’s Blend and in the medium production category to Capay Gold for its single varietal Hojiblanca. Best in Show—small production recognized Jack Rabbit Olive Oil for its single varietal Frantoio. Millers Pablo Voitzuk of Pacific Sun and Emilio de la Cruz of Chacewater were recognized in the large and small categories respectively.

This year, competition scoring went paperless thanks to innovative software developed by Cropster. The software added a higher level of efficiency and judges were very pleased with the shift towards technology.

Each entry is scored in several areas, totaling a possible 100 points. A silver winner must score at least 76, a gold 86. All high scoring golds are then tasted in a second round with the highest score named Best in Show.

“The results demonstrate the high quality of California extra virgin olive oil,” said COOC President Karen Bond. She added that the winners also reflect the range of producers we now have in California, from boutique to artisan to commercial growers and millers.

COOC Executive Director Patricia Darragh noted that as the California wine industry has done, olive growers throughout the state, are discovering which olives grow best in the state’s varying climates and geography. “With over 100 varieties now grown here, we are seeing new proprietary blending combinations unique to California as well as classic single varieties,” she said. “Our high quality and certified extra virgin olive oils now offer a great range to both home cooks and restaurant kitchens around the country.”

A reception and awards dinner capped the meetings with Roberta Klugman, a noted and tireless advocate for California olive oil, receiving the Pioneer Award.

And the Pioneer Award goes to... Roberta Klugman

In receiving the California Olive Oil Council’s (COOC) 2017 Pioneer Award, Roberta Klugman, who began advocating as an educator and tastemaker for extra virgin olive oil in the 1980s, and who has supported the COOC for over 20 years, joins a distinguished list.

“I have been championing extra virgin olive oil since my early career when I was working at Narsai’s Market in Kensington, California when quality oil was found only at few specialty food shops.” Klugman says. She has been advocating for extra virgin olive oil ever since and has been an active participant in the resurgence of what now is the California olive oil industry

“Educating American food professionals, chefs, and consumers about extra virgin olive oil has been a passion of mine,” she says. Even before there was a COOC, she showcased California olive oils to chefs and consumers alike. While at the American Institute of Wine & Food, Klugman made a point of including California EVOO at international conferences on gastronomy, chapter programs, Smithsonian Associates travel programs, industry seminars, and consumer classes.

Klugman has served on the Board of the COOC, heading up strategic planning and marketing initiatives. Over the years, she created olive oil seminars with Les Dames d’Escoffier, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the San Francisco Professional Food Society and at businesses such as Google. She promotes olive oil whenever she can to everyone. Linda Sikorski, senior buyer at Market Hall Foods, noted when presenting the award to Klugman, “Just go out to dinner with Roberta and see. If the chef is not already into California olive oil, she’ll make a convert!”

“I have had the good fortune of working with and learning from many visionaries in the industry over the years,” Klugman says. She adds that the growers and millers are doing the heavy lifting that has catapulted California olive oil into national and international attention and most importantly, made it available across the country. With their commitment to meeting and exceeding standards, “Our oils now hold their own with the most respected extra virgin olive oils in the world.”

Klugman says her ongoing mission has three components: Everyone should have three EVOOs in their kitchens and use it abundantly, in all manner of cooking, destroying the myth of not cooking with EVOO; recipes should call for extra virgin olive oil, not simply olive oil; and everyone should know to look for that harvest date and the COOC Seal.

The Pioneer Award was established in 1999 to recognize those who have made a major contribution to the California olive oil industry and the COOC. Klugman says she is honored to find herself among previous pioneers who represent innovative growers, producers, culinary educators, and tastemakers. “To do what you believe in and love is in itself rewarding,” she says. “To be recognized in this manner by others with a deep understanding of the industry is a highlight of my career.”

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