February 05, 2006
MONTEREY: This year’s educational component made the trip to Monterey well worth the time and money. The cocktail party, silent auction, dinner and dancing sweetened the deal. The gathering started with a brief state of the organization update by Executive Director Patty Darragh and President Karen Guth with board member Alan Greene, and then featured several hours of very useful marketing and sales tips by experts in the food industry.
Karen announced that 188 oils were certified this year with a 11% rise in the number of supporting members. A USDA grant of $48K is supporting exports, primarily to Canada but also to the EU. COOC staff and members attended or supported the San Francisco Fancy food show with a special evening media event, the NASFT food show in New York, the Ottawa food show, a food show in Cologne, and a special training of taste panel members in Italy.
Alan Greene described the phenomenal growth in the industry with hundreds of acres of new trees planted and new processors going in. The organization is considering a new board structure. Representation could be by industry type; growers vs. processors, or by region with a district representative. The current board welcomes comments from the members about this. The COOC is investigating aligning with other agricultural commodity groups in their efforts.
Patty returned to the podium and described several trade show strategies. While the New York Fancy Food show is smaller, there is greater visibility due to a paucity of other oils. The COOC will also pour oils at overseas shows for producers so they need not be present. Producers Joey Lucero and Joeli Yaguda attested to the quality of leads gathered at recent Fancy Food shows.
A panel presentation by board members Neil Blomquist of Spectrum Organics and Dick Neilsen of McEvoy Ranch, and by Linda Sikorski, buyer for Market Hall foods, discussed "reaching the retail market". They described the roles of brokers and distributors and the percentages each take. Linda described how best to approach a buyer, what to say, and how to follow up. They also discussed the utility of tasting demonstrations, and how to avoid channel conflict in pricing. Hidden costs such as processing and shipping and slotting fees were covered.
The COOC has developed several tools for producers. The retail store training program and includes a single sheet describing the seal program for retailers, in store posters, shelf talkers, brochures, brochure holders and a demo kit for tasting. An educational video for retailers describing what makes California olive oil unique will start shooting this fall when the 2006 harvest starts.
"Marketing and public relations tips and tools" was presented by board member Mary McCarthy of Tutta California and Roberta Klugman of Klugman and Associates. They included written materials and worksheets to help members develop their own promotional plan and material. One piece was a ready-made radio interview which can be used by producers to promote their oil and the California industry.
The meeting finished with questions for the board. One member asked the number of California producers who were COOC members, 85% according to Patty, but otherwise there were no contentious issues brought up.
That evening at the Portola hotel, a cocktail hour with silent auction was followed by dinner and announcements. Roberto Zecca was presented with the Pioneer award for his help in setting up the tasting panel and activities on the board. A hardy bunch finished the evening with dancing to the music of a DJ.