If you study the career of Alan Greene, you quickly come to the conclusion that he understood something about the importance of “superfoods” long before the nutrition world coined the phrase. Starting his multifaceted agricultural career growing tomatoes in the San Joaquin valley and almonds in central California, he joined the California Olive Ranch in 2003 to introduce Super-High Density planting to the California olive oil industry. As COOC president, Greene successfully campaigned for legislation aligning California olive oil standards with international requirements and was recently awarded the 2010 COOC Pioneer Award. His next “superfood” focus will be devoted to walnuts and prunes as Director of Sales and Marketing, Worldwide with ShoEi Foods USA.
Why did you first get involved in the olive oil industry?
In 2003, I was recruited to start California Olive Ranch’s sales and marketing efforts. Their first significant harvest was the fall 2002 crop. Previously, my early years at Blue Diamond Growers were managing the Almond Plaza specialty food and mail order catalog business. That background helped me understand the market channels and primary outlets for what was then a very small specialty item, California EVOO.
What do you most enjoy about the business?
The people and the energy they bring to their brands, orchards, and products. Because the industry is so young, many of the key players who sat around kitchen tables trying to get this industry off the ground against overwhelming odds are still very active today. All of them are happy to help out a new person.
What do you think is the industry’s biggest challenge?
Completing the transition from small specialty item marketing and production volume to a significant California food crop. This transition will require increasing sophistication in marketing and the organization of new channels of distribution. These can best be addressed through the establishment of a coordinated California olive oil marketing effort where progress can be made on standards and standard enforcement, industry production data could be collected to build large volume buyer’s confidence to switch to California EVOO, and a California brand can be firmly developed that will carry out beyond the tremendous work already done by the California Olive Oil Council.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Barcelona or Paris.
What quality do you most admire in a person?
Integrity tempered by emotional intelligence and life’s experience.
What is your favorite food and olive oil pairing?
Early harvest California Koroneiki with open flame roasted yellow and orange peppers, blue potatoes, chopped dry roasted almonds [haven’t’ tried walnuts yet], with grilled wild Alaskan Salmon.
Where would you like to live?
Always near my children and friends.
What is your most satisfying achievement?
Very near the top would be participation in the effort to establish new labeling standards for olive oil sold in California in 2008.
What was your most memorable meal?
Summer of 2006 at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz. The Alinea is an experience all by itself; only 23 bites of food over a three and half hour meal. What made this experience even more memorable were the list of people at the table with me, Chef Mark Peel, Chef Mark Estee, and international food consultant Claudia Sutherland. The intensity of the food matched perfectly the pitch of the discussion of the food.
What are you working on now?
Through A Greene Idea, I continue to advise some individuals and groups on super high density orchard development and the marketing of EVOO in the US. Recently I accepted the position of Director of Sales and Marketing, Worldwide with ShoEi Foods USA. ShoEi Foods USA is a walnut and prune grower-processor located in Olivehurst, CA.
What’s next on your horizon?
The next fun event will be attending the International Tree Nut Conference this spring in Beijing, China. Professionally I am looking forward to getting the word out on ShoEi Foods’ new state of the art walnut processing plant. We are operating new lines that offer our customers manufactured walnut products with dramatically lower foreign material specifications from a hospital clean facility, and traceability of each batch all the way to the specific orchard where it was harvested.