An interview with California Olive Ranch on how they developed their product.
In case you didn't catch this review, California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil Miller's Blend Bold & Peppery was named a Pick of the Week in Phil's Food Reviews this month. We reached out to them for our series on how food makers develop new products, and what we found was a company committed to sustainability and quality at a reasonable price.
What inspired you to create your new product? Is there a particular niche or segment of the market you were focusing on?
Our company was founded on the idea of making high quality extra virgin olive oil accessible to as many people as possible by offering it at a reasonable price. To do this we’ve pioneered new ways of growing and harvesting olives here in California for the production of genuinely extra virgin olive oil.
What makes your product different and able to stand out against similar ones? How important has differentiation been in developing this product?
Test after test, our olive oil has compared highly favorably to far more expensive extra virgin olive oils. We are committed to a pure, quality product and all of our olives come from California farms.
What was the process like of designing your package, and how do you feel the final result has impacted perceptions of your product?
A lot of thought has gone into the design of our package, and we see it as an extension of our values, which include sustainable agricultural practices and local farming.
Does your product have relevant health attributes? What are they?
The FDA says eating two tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to its monounsaturated fat content. Extra virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants, reducing the oxidative stress throughout your body.
What sustainability efforts have you made with your product/packaging?
The hardy, desert dwelling olive tree makes olives a water efficient, low input crop to grow. Using this to our advantage, California Olive Ranch’s olive trees are on 100% drip irrigation, which increases water usage efficiency and allows less water to evaporate.
Producing olive oil is actually quite a simple process, and there are only three waste streams that are created from the process: water extracted from the fruit, tree trimmings and remaining skins and pits, which we call pomace. We are committed to wasting nothing, so we spread all of the water back onto our fields to irrigate our trees. We recycle the tree trimmings as mulch back into the soil on our ranches. And local cattle ranches use the pomace for cattle feed. It’s that easy!
All of the glass we use for our bottles is 100% recyclable, and all corrugate cardboard we use for our foodservice products is sourced from 50% recycled material. All of our plastic bottles are made from HDPE and PET plastic. Along with our plastic caps and bags, our plastic bottles are recyclable and BPA free.
Through creating a new product, what would you say were the most difficult parts of the process and what came the easiest?
Like any new business, we had a learning curve; initially, we irrigated generously and added nitrogen, a fairly typical approach for fruit trees, and we soon realized that that was not the right approach for olives. We were growing big, healthy trees but very little fruit and with less tasty oil. This discovery was a huge benefit, allowing us to cut water and nutrient costs dramatically in an effort to support a better yield. Olives offer a variety of health benefits and require less than half of the water needed to produce almonds, so that made things easier for us.
As far as ongoing nuances, our miller, Bob Singletary, tells us to “Remember that olives are like wine grapes.” He says, “Every year brings different weather conditions, which change the flavor of the varietals we use. So I need to check the flavor profile and tweak the formula slightly based on what Mother Nature gives me.”
Anything you would change if you were starting from scratch again?
Other than learning from the early mistakes that we already mentioned, we can’t think of anything that we’d change.
Besides your product, what's one out on the market that you admire?
McEvoy Ranch Tuscan Blend. The robust, deep flavor profile, is well done and Deborah Rogers (McEvoy head miller) is great at her craft.