By Lorrie Baumann
Lucinia Italia’s Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Organic Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil will continue to be produced on partner estates in Italy, and the Lucini oil coming from Argentina is packaged in bottles clearly labeled with the oil’s origin.
Argentina has been known over the past several years for making really great award-winning olive oils, but they hadn’t found fans yet in the U.S., and as a result, much of that oil that came into the U.S. market was coming as a component in a blended oil, with its Argentinian origin obscured by its label mention in a country code on the back of the bottle, according to Mike Forbes, Executive Vice President and General Manager of California Olive Ranch. This Lucini’s new 100 percent Argentinian oil is a mild, green, fruity oil, a blend of the Arbequina, Picual, and Italian varietals including Coratina, Frantoio and Arbequina varietals, that’s great for everyday use, he said, adding that, “Once we tasted it, we fell in love with it.”
All of the olives for the new Lucini oil are grown in the wine regions of Mendoza, which is also where the grapes for Malbec wines are grown, and in south San Juan. “We work directly with the producers. We visit directly with our team,” Forbes said. “We hand-select all of the oil at harvest. … We take every container of olive oil and test it to make sure that it meets our specifications and the specifications that define extra virgin olive oil.”
The olive growers from whom California Olive Ranch Lucini sources the oils are mostly family farmers, some of Italian heritage as the result of a wave of Italian immigration that happened in Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century, just as many Italians arrived in the U.S. at that time. It’s estimated that around half of Argentina’s current population has some degree of Italian descent. Other contributors of fruit to the Lucini oil are Argentinian growers who’ve become attracted to the olives as a new crop over the past decade or two. These Argentinian producers are entrepreneurial and progressive, bringing a New World perspective to their craft as well as the savvy to team up with Lucini and California Olive Ranch, which have established roots in the American market and the distribution network that goes along with that, according to Forbes. “The U.S. is a pretty tough place to do business,” he said. “We can help growers with that because we’re taking the product and bringing it to the shelf all the way to the consumer.”
California Olive Ranch also offers the strength of the Lucini brand, which is already familiar to American consumers. “We’re taking this great Argentinian oil and we’re showcasing it as a 100 percent Argentinian oil, and that’s really exciting for the growers,” Forbes said. “What we have seen in the U.S. is that there’s a huge and increasing demand for high-quality olive oil. People want to know where it’s from. They want high-quality oil with good flavor.”
Adding the Argentinian oil into the company’s product range will help ensure the availability of fresh oil on the shelf throughout the year, since Argentina’s location in the southern hemisphere means that its olives are ready for harvest during the United States’ spring. “There’s obviously a freshness benefit,” Forbes noted.
California Olive Ranch is offering the Lucini Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil in 500 ml and 1-liter bottles. The 500 ml bottle retails for $10.99, with the liter retailing for $17.99. “That’s a price point that works for the consumer,” Forbes said. “We find that consumers are willing to pay a little extra to get something they know is good.”