George Sakellaropoulos, founder and owner of the company of Organic Olive Oil Sakellaropoulos, talks to epixeiro.gr about his career in the field of olive production, a route with 88 international awards, "a world record for a Greek producer".
How does the involvement with olive production come about and with what criteria do you choose an area at the foot of Taygetos and Parnonas for cultivation?
Engaging in oil production was the evolution of the special bond I had developed with the sacred olive tree and the natural way of life. The passion for quality and innovation motivated me in 1992, when organic farming was still an unknown concept in our country, to consciously choose organic farming.
My place, Sparta Laconia is not a random choice. It is distinguished by almost zero levels of environmental pollution and has a history with centuries of experience in olive oil production. The excellent combination of ideal conditions of microclimate, flora and fauna at the foot of Taygetos and Parnon gives our organic oil products primary characteristics of superior quality.
Tell us about your products. What would you describe as the most innovative proposals that can be identified by signing your company?
All our organic products are purely innovative with dominant points of superiority their simplicity and pluralism in their aromas and taste. They highlight forgotten eras and have organoleptic characteristics that promote, shield and improve human health.
Indicatively, our innovative proposals include the organic limited edition extra virgin organic olive oils, the flavored premium and gourmet olive oils with an EU Health Claim. However, apart from the organic olive oils, we have been distinguished for the innovation that we apply in the production of the organic gourmet olives of Kalamata and green olives, products which are of natural fermentation, with minimal salt and without pasteurization.
What are the requirements to qualify an olive grove as organic? And what are the essential advantages of an organic product compared to a non-organic one?
The olive grove that enhances the sustainable development of the ecosystem is characterized as organic. Follows and complies with international-European standards and regulations of organic farming.
In an organic olive grove the cultivation is done without chemicals, insecticides, hormones and pesticides, with self-control and accredited measurements, which are controlled through approved certifications. In simple words it is the healthy present that bequeaths a clean environment to future generations.
Reasonably, organic products are significantly superior to conventional, non-organic, health-friendly ingredients, free of chemicals harmful to human and animal health, while offering distinct aromas and flavors.
Tell us about your export business. In which countries have you arrived and what is the public response to a Greek product?
Despite the fact that the Greek product was unknown to the majority of consumers internationally, our organic products, with systematic and long-term effort, were recognized on the world stage. They enjoy great value, constantly conquering new points of sale, even in the most demanding markets dominated by products of neighboring countries such as Italy and Spain. We export to 14 countries, indicatively to America, Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, France.
Your products have been "used" for research, reaching as far as Harvard. How did the specific procedures come about and what are the most important conclusions?
Scientific research and synergies are located in the core of the Sakellaropoulos Organic Olive groves from the beginning. They are the most reliable basis for the production and accurate identification of the health protection value of all our products.
Clinical studies to improve human health have shown that daily consumption of 5 table olives leads to a reduction in cholesterol, the vast majority of participating volunteers (95%) and an improvement in their blood lipid levels.
Today, our organic olive oils are being used in the three-year Mediterranean Intervention Study conducted by Harvard University and the School of Public Health on the daily diet of 1,000 volunteer firefighters at 44 fire stations in the United States.
The purpose of the three-year study by the Harvard School of Public Health is to show that changing eating habits, in a scientifically proven way, in groups of people at high risk of disease and especially heart attacks while performing their work, such as firefighters, decreases to extremely high rates.
Taking a walk through bioarmonia.gr, one of the first things you see for your company is the reference to the 88 international awards. Tell us about them. Which would you single out as the most important?
The 88 international awards - which concern exclusively products of our own production - are a world record for a Greek producer.
These global rewards, from Japan to the United States, are the most reliable entry passport of Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms even in the most demanding foreign markets.
Each award has its own significance and value. I do not forget our first award, with the Telies olives and the Double Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards in London in 2012, among 10,000 quality foods from around the world, the ranking of Oleoastron olive oil in the best position of the international Terraolivo competition in 2015 with the Best Flavored evoo award, and of course the extremely honorable 2nd place in the world of olive oil Syllektikon in 2018 by the internationally renowned olive oil classification organization World Ranking EVOO. Of course, I always continue to single out as the most important the next award which will distinguish the result of our efforts to achieve very high quality and innovation.
You mention that your products are of limited production. Why is this strategy followed and what does it offer in the end result?
The limited production of Sakellaropoulos Organic Olive groves is not a strategy. It is our identity, our vision and our value.
Our commitment is the passion for quality and innovation, the evolution of the relationship of respect with nature, consistency and humility in the face of international discrimination.
The end result is organic olive oil products of unique and specialized identity.
Your next goals? What would you like Sakellaropoulos Eleones to have achieved in the next five years?
The vision of Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms for the production of organic products of high health value with the innovation of aromas and flavors remains unchanged in the long run.
The next five years marks for us the strengthening of the Sakellaropoulos brand and the imprint of the Greek organic product in the international market.
Equally important is the successful transition to the younger generation of the company, with which we build with an authentic collaborative spirit.