Elaiologists, the New Coaches (vol.4): Alberto Serralha

Alberto Serralha: 'We can all think that the easiest part of producing a good EVOO will be selling it, but it's not like that; in fact, it's the hardest part and the one we least dominate'

Alberto Serralha: "We can all think that the easiest part of producing a good EVOO will be selling it, but it's not like that; in fact, it's the hardest part and the one we least dominate"

2018/08/06 - We follow with this newsletter, a journey through the most important coaches and elaiologists in the world. The commitment to quality in the production of extra virgin olive oils seems unstoppable. Quality in all phases of the process, from the field to the table. We know the theory, the protocol, but what are the keys to developing a High-end EVOO? Portuguese producer and consultant, Alberto Serralha, offers us his vision in the fourth release of this series.

For Alberto Serralha, founder, co-owner and CEO of SAOV (Sociedade Agrícola Ouro Vegetal, SA), and olive oil consultant in Oasis Olives (Peru and Australia), Olivares de Quepu (Chile) and Nuevo Manantial (Uruguay) companies, "the concepts and good practices to obtain a high-quality EVOO no longer escape anyone and is not new. Actually, producing small budles of high-quality oil is not too difficult and fortunately every year there are more producers who get it right. Today, the challenges are to produce large volumes of high-quality extra virgins and enhance the value of each crop; to do so it is necessary to have an adequate productive capacity, technology and mainly a lot of organization and discipline. In addition to olive trees and machinery, a project is made up of a group of people. It is necessary that everyone carries out their part in a very focused way, starting with the one that harvests the tree and ending up with the shareholders; all of them have to push in the same direction. The proximity of the team is very important, each one needs to be available and commit deeply to achieving his mission and at the same time have the capacity of sacrifice to help the one next to him".

In his opinion, "from a more technical and technological point of view, innovation is becoming more and more important today. In 2009, SAOV was probably the first oil mill in the world that cooled olive paste. What seemed silly at that time has transformed into something that no longer surprises anyone and its use is increasingly widespread. We continue testing and making changes in the process, many times without success, but we must continue thinking and looking for new solutions. We spend a lot of time and resources looking for solutions to optimize details of the process. "However, as the CEO of SAOV points out, "despite all the evolution, technology alone does not replace work and in this business, empirical points of view and common sense are very important. A small producer may want to sell all itsproduction packaged and, in this case, investment in marketing and image can be one of the main approaches. In the same way, when the production that we are dealing with at the moment is great, we must think about packaging, knowing that it will be a solution for part of the problem, but we must also look for good commercial outlets for high-quality bulk. We must have enough patience to build long-term business relationships and, above all, be worthy of trust. These are the foundations for a solid and promising business."

"Agronomically -he adds- the strategy of pest and disease control is very important, but it seems necessary to obtain an oil without residues of pesticides. Nowadays, in many markets it is no longer enough to remain within the legal limits of the substances; the oil has to be free of traces. The challenge is to produce healthy olives and olive oils without waste."

"Therefore -Serralha concludes- there is no secret formula, but having a team with a lot of experience and very focused on what it does. Maintaining this spirit is my number one priority in all those projects in which I am involved. The main challenge is not to obtain an excellent oil, but to be able to do it. We can all think that we are going to have a very good product and that the easiest part will be to sell it and achieve a good profitability. Well, it's not like that, it's actually the hardest part and the one that we least dominate. Currently there are thousands of producers in the world, each with its brand, focused on a part of the market that, although growing, still does not reach everyone. The focus on costs is crucial, we must be very competitive and clearly convey that this business is not easy, because the euphoria, together with the ego, blind us easily. We have to learn from the bad years, since they are the ones that teach us how to take advantage of the good ones".

The consumer and olive oil of the future
Alberto Serralha believes that nowadays "this most sophisticated consumer is moved by curiosity and an enormous will to live new experiences. This is very evident in very developed quality markets, such as the United States. More and more oil is being sold accompanied by an important volume of information, from agronomic details to the technology of olive oil extraction. The sophisticated consumer is no longer easily moved by the history of millenary olive trees and successive family generations dedicated to extracting these oils."

The Portuguese consultant believes that "the olive oil of the future will be better and tendentially cheaper, being the result of a technological evolution and the ability of man in a more efficient management of agronomic and industrial procedures. The fact that olive oil is increasingly produced in a greater number of countries makes it possible to investigate more every day, thinking of ways to improve it. Olive oil is increasingly related to health and that is the most important asset that we all have to know how to preserve and promote commercially."

"The future will bring us very competitive times, more or less difficult, but never boring. Last May, traveling by car in Chile next to a good friend and client of mine, he told me: "To see a Portuguese in Chile just arrived from Peru next to an American oil buyer, traveling to meet a Chilean producer, is the the greatest evidence we have that this is a global business that works. And I totally agree," he concludes.

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