March 03, 2006
Several readers have asked for a list of olive oil competitions, events, fairs and festivals with relevant information for entering.
Taste competitions can be local, such as the county fair, or global such as the Mario Solinas Award given by the International Olive Oil Council. Most US producers will want to enter several competitions, blue ribbons look good on your website and bottle and give you a pat on the back. If your oil doesn't do well then there is work to do.
The L.A. County Fair is the one most food critics in the US are familiar with. Winning the Sol Doro in Verona, Italy isn't helpful if your customers have not heard of it. Local events such as your County Fair are great for developing regional pride in your product.
Olive Oil Festivals are a perfect place to sell oil and get feedback from customers. See how your competitors are marketing their oil, swap information and make connections. While the traffic at an olive oil festival may not be as high as at the Fourth of July fair, the customers are pre-qualified and tend to be serious about the subject. One day gross sales from a festival will probably be several times what a farmer's market brings in. Producers have sold as much as $4,000 a day at the Canada College and Paso Robles events. The Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival is now the largest in California, eschewing hula dancers and chiropractor booths for cooking demonstrations and other useful presentations.
National and international shows and events are a great way to see how the rest of the world is selling their oil. The most accessible one in the US is the Winter Fancy Food show in San Francisco. Many California producers attend this show and offer tastings of their products at their own booths. The California Olive Oil Council has a booth where producers can rent space to pour olive oil for tasting. Whole rows of producers from Italy, Spain, and Australia offer the big view of the market. We have seen some very clever ideas and products coming out of New Zealand and Australia at the show.
An international show such as SOL in Verona and Alimentaria are more expensive and difficult to attend, and do not offer much more in the way of tastings. There is equipment on display but if there are not U.S. representatives, service personnel and spares then a purchase can be risky. The most common reason for attending these shows is to write off your foreign travel.
See our new webpage for information about the above shows and festivals including scope, year started, deadlines, size and contact information. Events and Festivals