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Cobram Estate will enter US to fill what it says is a void in high quality, extra virgin olive oils

By Elizabeth Crawford

18-Nov-2015

Cobram Estate's olive trees.
Cobram Estate's olive trees.

Award winning Australian olive oil manufacturer Cobram Estate in February will extend its reach into the competitive US market, which it says suffers a dearth of high quality, extra virgin olive oils. 

“The main driver to launching our business in the USA is because we believe there is a real opportunity in the market” for olive oils that are freshly cold-pressed and not refined, Cobram Estate CEO Rob McGavin told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Consumer preferences with regards to food from the source, safety/traceability, real foods and health are strong and getting stronger,” he said, adding that this is especially true for olive oil, which many Americans buy because they believe it is healthier than other oils.

Unfortunately, he said, Americans do not realize that many of the olive oils currently available to them with terms such as “extra light,” “pure,” “100% olive oil,” are often refined and, therefore, not as healthy as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, like that which Cobram Estate produces, McGavin said.

He claimed that many currently available olive oils are refined “because approximately 50% of the world’s olives are so rotten when they are crushed that the resulting oil is not fit for human consumption.”

Manufacturers amend this with refining, which McGavin argued is “a very unnatural, industrial process (the same process used to make nearly all seed oils, including corn, palm, canola, vegetable, etc.) It uses heat and chemicals to neutralize, bleach, deodorize and degum the oil, but in the process removes all the health benefits.”

Cobram Estate avoids the need to refine its extra virgin olive oil by cold-pressing only “perfect olives” as quickly as possible after they are harvested in order to maintain the antioxidants and health benefits, according to the firm’s website.

McGavin added that speed is of the essence because “as soon as you pick any olive, it is no longer protected from the tree and starts to deteriorate from heat, oxygen and light. It starts using up its natural antioxidants to protect itself from going rotten. The quicker the olives are crushed and pressed after picking under ideal cooler temperatures, the more the levels of antioxidants are maximized.”

The firm also ensures the best flavor by devoting “our lives to ensuring that each olive tree is kept in excellent condition and managed with care,” McGavin said. Oils that will be sold in the US will come from olive groves in California and Australia

Cobram Estate olive oil pressing

Consumer education needed

The company plans to support the launch in part with a consumer education campaign that will explain how and why to cook with high quality extra virgin olive oil, McGavin said.

The campaign likely will include details on the company’s oils’ health benefits.

For support, McGavin pointed to praise for Cobram Estate’s oils from a researcher and associate professor at Brown University.

“Having tested and reviewed laboratory results of many of your Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oils, particularly when working with UC Davis, I must say I am very impressed with the consistently high levels of phenols contained in your oils,” which research shows are associated with a decreased incidence of these chronic diseases, Mary Flynn, a senior research dietician and associate professor at Brown University and the Miriam Hospital, told the company in a letter sent July 13, 2015.

She goes on to note: “No wonder you are winning so many oil competitions around the world.”

Indeed, Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oils have won more than 150 awards from global competitions, according to the firm’s website.

McGavin is confident the oils’ award winning flavor will help Cobram Estate oils standout in what he acknowledges is a very crowded category.

“Once they try it, they really don’t go back,” which is how Cobram Estate because Australia’s #1 extra virgin olive oil, he said. 

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