UC Davis Seminars Demonstrate Continued Interest in Domestic Olive Oil Production

By Caroline J. Beck
June 01, 2011

As a part of its year-long series of educational seminars to help domestic olive growers expand their businesses and improve standards of quality production, UC Davis (UCD) Olive Center recently held a two-day event to present strategies for business success and profitability. An audience of 100 listened to business strategist and advisor, Caroline J. Beck and California Olive Ranch’s Director of Orchard Services, Adam Englehardt share the dais for the Business of Olive Oil Production symposium, accompanied by a wide range of expert panelists. Lamberto Baccioni, CEO of Agrivision spearheaded the second day’s presentation on Keys to Quality Olive Oil Production, with educator Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne providing guidance on blending and organoleptic assessment. The California Olive Oil Council co-sponsored the educational event.

Interest in UCD Olive Center’s program demonstrates continued interest in the expanding olive oil industry in California, despite increasing challenges for profitability. The audience was comprised of veteran growers looking for information to improve their business plan, new growers interested in establishing best practices for production and marketing, and newcomers to the industry investigating its business potential.

The 2011 seminar program began in April with a symposium on Medium Density Olive Production presented by Dr. Karen M. Klonsky of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UCD. The first seminar in the series aptly identified the single biggest challenge for most artisanal and niche domestic producers: cost-effective production. With an average sample cost of $10.50/375ml bottle for MDH production and processing, Dr. Klonsky’s extensive analysis included land costs, orchard establishment and management, milling and bottling production, as well as initial marketing costs.

Given those challenges, operating profitably in today’s highly competitive field became the focus of the second event in the year-long series of seminars. Beck began The Business of Olive Oil Production seminar with an overview on the state of the industry and the impact that low-cost, low-quality imports have on driving lower prices in the market; despite a continued trend for overall increases in consumer usage. She continued with a primer on business planning for producers, covering the basics of strategic planning and cost analysis through the distribution chain to retail shelf placement. COR’s Englehardt extended that focus into the orchard and reviewed a wide range of agricultural issues that impact profitability and operational efficiency. Beck concluded the day’s seminar with two presentations focused on new approaches to marketing in the 21st century, including building loyalty in the consumer-empowered buying process and creative ways to extend profitability through better brand management.

Baccioni, former long-time manager of milling production equipment manufacturer, Alfa Laval, was the headliner for the second program on Keys to Quality Olive Oil Production. A native of Florence, Italy with a Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology from the University of Milan, his international expertise on issues that affect oil quality provided a fresh perspective for the audience. Along with Devarenne and other panel experts, he explored production factors from tree selection, orchard establishment and management to processing, storage and blending, viewed from the perspective of the total effect on product quality.

The UCD Olive Center program, headed up by Dan Flynn, Executive Director, will continue throughout the year with additional seminars and symposiums on sensory evaluation, olive milling and super high density olive production. For more program information and schedule details, visit the UC Davis Olive Center website.