Moffatdale Olive grove is the largest in Queensland.
Moffatdale Olive grove is the largest in Queensland. Katherine Morris

Marketing olive oils like wine

OLIVES are as diverse in flavour as wine is and the olive industry is banding together to create regional palate profiles for different olive varieties.

Clovely Estate's Moffatdale olive grove is involved in the project along with several other Queensland and South Australians Groves.

Queensland Olive Council chief executive officer Amanda Bailey said the new project gave farmers the opportunity for provenance branding of olive oils, much like wine.

More than 100 members of the QOC and Olives South Australia will work with South Australian researchers to investigate a product designation of origin system for Australian extra-virgin olive oils.

The group has commissioned research to sample olives to create regional palate profiles.

"Growers from the South Burnett are involved, it's something that's never been explored with olives in Australia,” Ms Bailey said.

"Half the conversation with consumers, when bought a bottle of wine with dinner, is selecting something which is matched to the food or is our favourite, that comes back to taste and what the consumer likes.

"It's the same with olive oil, there is a diverse flavour profile.”

Ms Bailey said consumers hadn't yet made the connection about different flavour qualities in olive oils.

"Producers connecting with consumers, the consumer wins on every level, knowing an oil came from a particular region and from that area will be the exact style they are after and can complement what they are cooking with,” she said.

"Some can be grassy and have tomato-type of flavours, others floral and fruity. It all relates back to the soil, the environment and the sunlight the fruit is subjected to.

"The high amount of sunlight in Queensland compares to Sicily so we draw some of those comparison offers some different character warmer and can be quite cool on top of the great divide, which can replicate those characters in the cooler climates and can get a lot of diversity and exploring where quality can go.”

Olive oils also get used in the skin care industry and are willing to pay a premier price for the oil, to use in a particular produce and that can mean more money for the product for producers.

"We are covering a big expanse and there is a lot of diversity in climate,” she said.

"To be able to know what some of the hidden qualities are and how diverse the Queensland and South Australian products can be and where particular areas can bring out different characteristics.”

Ms Bailey said the project would be good for the consumer and the growers to understand more of what olives had to offer.

It's the first time the industry has done a project like this in Australia.

"Many consumers may not know that olives have a variety of flavours based on the region the olives are grow,” Ms Bailey said.

The new provenance-branding initiative is being supported by the Australian Government.

The project is being assisted by $66,909 from the national Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration pilot program, known as Farming Together.

Already the group has commissioned research to sample olives to create regional palate profiles.

"We estimate 85% of Australian extra-virgin olive oils are made from olives grown in a single grove that has been maintained by the owner who cares,” Ms Bailey said.

The success of this pilot study involving South Australian and Queensland olive growers could lead to a national appellation scheme which would support the marketability of Australian extra-virgin olive oil both on the domestic and international stages.

Scientific collaborator on the project Richard Gawel said rationality and difference in production practise across regions is likely to extend to difference in health giving components in the olives such as polyphenols and squalene.

"Squalene in particular is becoming a rock star in the health world, with some Japanese buyers insisting on minimum levels of this rare antioxidant found only in extra virgin olive oil and, surprisingly, shark livers. Pure squalene is also used in exclusive cosmetics and skin formulations. Understanding how regionality affects these components will be valuable to Australian growers,” Dr Gawel said.

Ms Bailey said production was trending upwards in both states, as trees planted up to 16 years ago are now maturing. Growers hope the PDO will help with sales of this increased volume of product.

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program is a two-year, $13.8m initiative from the Australian Government designed to help agricultural groups value-add, secure premium pricing, scale-up production, attract capital investment, earn new markets or secure lower input costs.

The profram recently launched a free online co-op builder for groups considering forming themselves into these tax-effective structures. The template is available at www.farmingtogether.

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program is being delivered by Southern Cross University on behalf of the Australian Government. It comprises a highly experienced senior team drawn from a wide range of commodity groups from across Australia.

Go to www.farming

South Burnett

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