A Greek family of oil producers, Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms, has set a world record for an olive producer, winning 203 international awards.
The 100% Greek-owned olive grove company, which is based in Sparti, Lakonia, has dazzled international markets over the last few years with the quality of its organic products, focusing on the cultivation, production, and packaging of their olive oil products.
Their flavoured premium oils include some unusual combinations, e.g. unripe Koroneiki olive oil, oranges, lemons, and wild thyme (Syllektikon), or Koroneiki olive oil infused with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, sage, and lemon (Enigma).
Owner George Sakellaropoulos spoke to ANA about both the new award his farm received, as well as the goals of the company.
When and how did you decide to become involved with organic cultivation? How difficult was this endeavour?
We made a conscious choice to become involved exclusively with organic cultivation, knowing the benefits this has for human health, but also for the environment. We began in 1992, when organic farming was a completely unknown concept in Greece. We chose our place, Sparta in Laconia, where the conditions (climate, soil, zero environmental pollution, etc.) are ideal for the cultivation of olives. Our goal was never to produce large quantities of olive oil and olives. At the beginning, we trained and, in the end, decided that for us our goal was the production of innovative, limited edition olive products with identity and added value, that are classified as functional foods. It is a difficult road as it requires technical know-how, knowledgeable personnel, and large periods of trials and experimentations. In addition, there is intense international competition from over 40 olive producing countries. Throughout our 28 years of operation, we persevered and believed in our goal, which was none other than the achievement of high quality.
You have achieved a world record for the most international awards. What does that mean for you?
We had not participated in international competitions prior to 2012, in other words 20 years after the beginning of this venture, because we first wanted to attain a high level of quality and improve the taste characteristics of our specialized organic olive products.
The competition and the degree of difficulty we came across from 2012 until today from the international olive producing giants has been tremendous. Here you “ enter” a sector that does not forgive the slightest defect from expert critics. This is the reason the first 20 years were dedicated to laying the groundwork through development and especially self-improvement, so that we would be able to compete in the world’s major markets, with regard to the taste and quality of our products, as volume wise it is impossible for a small single estate farm such as ours to compete.
Which of your international awards or award do you consider to be special for you and for what reason?
This is a very difficult question and my answer can only be the next international award I receive. That which I have not yet attained. I believe this because I consider the biggest award to be the journey that is taken for us to reach the next big award, which may span a period of trials and experimentation lasting two, three, or four years. This journey is the big award and one that teaches you.
For me these awards confirm that we are on the right path, with respect and humility to the sacred olive tree, to mankind, to the environment and to all that we add to Greek organic olive cultivation.
If I would single out one, it would be our first award for our “ Telies” olives and the two gold stars at the 2012 London Great Taste Awards – the so-called Oscar of Tastes – among 10,000 quality foods from all over the world.
Also, the great and unique distinction of 2nd place worldwide in 2017 for our gourmet “ Syllektikon” olive oil; here special mention has to be given to the same olive oil, for the rare distinction it received in London in 2019 where it received 3 gold stars among 12,772 quality foods at the 2019 Great Taste Awards.
Our crowning moment for all of the international awards for taste and quality came in 2018 and 2019, when two multivariate extra virgin organic gourmet olive oils, the Majestic blend EVOO and the Gemstone blend EVOO, were awarded for two consecutive years first place in the world ranking of olive oils EVOOWR for the corresponding years, with a new record for all in their category.
Talk to us about your organic products. Which of them would you describe as your most innovative proposals?
We have many olive products but if I had to single out a few, I would say the limited edition organic Protelaio, the unheated Agourelaio, the extra virgin monovarietal olive oils, and the premium flavored gourmet olive oils. In addition, our gourmet Kalamata olives and green olives, products of a natural fermentation process, with minimal salt and without artificial preservatives or pasteurization. All of the organic olive oils and olives that we produce are innovative and are mainly characterized by their simplicity and the plethora of aromas in their taste, which reminds one of past ages.
Many studies show the many benefits of olives and olive oil to human health. Do you take part in such studies with your products?
Scientific research and our cooperation with researchers and university institutions constitute the core and the foundation of our farm.
Today our organic olive oils are participating in the three-year study “ Mediterranean Diet Intervention Trial” which is being conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health and follows the diet of 1000 volunteer fire fighters in 44 fire stations in the United States. The purpose of this three-year study by the Harvard University School of Public Health is to show that by altering diet conditions, with a scientifically proven method, in groups of people who have a high risk of sickness and especially of heart-related conditions during the implementation of their job, like fire fighters, that this risk is reduced to a very high degree.
Another important clinical study being carried out by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens studied the potential health benefits of our table olives. The study showed that they contained on average 5 times more tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol (powerful natural antioxidants) than all the other types of olives studied.
The results were announced at the world conference of the Oleacanthal International Society, in Olympia in 2016.
You also produce natural cosmetic products, what should we know about them?
Our natural cosmetics were created based on the consideration for the need to turn to nature for the care, maintenance and protection of our face and body. These are 100 pct Greek natural cosmetics with unheated organic olive oil and St. John’s Wort oil, dermatologically tested and with all of the legal European circulation notices. Our cosmetics circulate under the brand name Esthique Natural Cosmetics.
What are your next goals?
Our goal for the following years is the continuation and development of our production of organic olive products with high health protective properties with innovation and added value. While simultaneously expanding the recognition of the brand name “Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms” for our international consumers, as well as securing our presence in more major international markets, with stable and mutually beneficial business cooperations and of course that Sparta and our country, continue to acquire distinctions in international competitions.