“Best olive producer in Europe”, in 2023, in the most difficult year of the Euro-Mediterranean and Greek olive growing, the Greek olive producer Giorgos Sakellaropoulos from Laconia was selected.
Single Estate olive grove in a specific terroir, regenerative organic olive cultivation, production of bio-functional foods (Bio-FunctionalFoods), oil products that belong to the category of Neutraceuticals and other innovations as well as research projects – collaborations with the world’s leading universities (Harvard, Yale) make up the secret of his success.
With his eyes fixed on 2024, Mr. Sakellaropoulos, with more than 800 international oil and olive awards to his credit and his annual contribution to Greece’s global ranking, spoke to APE-MPE about this great distinction that our country and the entire Greek olive industry, revealing its key secrets.
“The reasons and criteria are obviously many” and the question of what contributed most to this distinction, “cannot be answered unequivocally” he says. “I would single out the creative inspiration, the knowledge, the consistency and also the clear orientation that the organic olive groves of Sakellaropoulos have in the very high quality of their produced olive products, together with the positive imprint they leave through olive growing and organic olive cultivation on human health” .
Mr. Sakellaropoulos’ award was given in the city of Castellon, in Valencia, Spain, at the 20th Pan-European Conference of the European Council of Gastronomy and Oenology – CEUCO (October 27 and 29, 2023), which has more than 10,000 members from European countries. At the annual conference of the European Council held in a different country and city, the heart of Europe’s haute cuisine and oenology “beats” and it is the first time that this rare distinction has been awarded to a European olive producer.
The European Council of Gastronomy and Oenology has even established, after evaluation, its annual awards for the last seventeen (17) years, with the selection of the one and only, best European of its kind (Best European). The company “organic olive groves of Sakellaropoulos”, from Greece and Sparta, was honored with the title of BEST EUROPEAN ORGANIC OLIVE PRODUCER 2023, by tasters, experts, chefs, and CEUCO members.
“This specific award, as I mentioned in my thank-you speech in the Castellón Auditoriumand Congress Center in Spain, where the event took place, was a lifetime award for us, with many symbols, but also for another important reason: It is the first time that an olive producer from any European country has been awarded, in the seventeen years that CEUCO’s high degree of difficulty culinary awards have been held.
The 2022-2023 olive growing season may be recorded as a year of soaring European olive oil prices and a reduction in production in the Euro-Mediterranean zone, due to drought and high temperatures, but Greece is still in the top five European countries in olive oil-olive production. increasing its exports in the last five years. The EU, led by Spain, (excluding the previous year), produces over 65% of the world’s olive oil on about 40 billion hectares in the Mediterranean countries, while many regions of the European south live exclusively from olive oil production.
Referring to the impact that this distinction could have on the global olive oil market, as well as the hundreds of other awards that specific organic olive groves have won in the largest and international taste and quality competitions around the world, Mr. Sakellaropoulos notes that “the 803 international awards are a world record for an olive producer and they certainly write and are written in the book of Greek olive growing, which we serve consistently, with respect and humility, for the last 32 years”.
Every distinction of Greek olive oil is an advertisement for Greek olive growing
“As the highest but also very emotional distinction for the multi-awarded producer, it is another first, namely “the 1st place worldwide received by the culinary olive oil from the olive groves, specialized production, under the brand name “MajesticBlendGourmetEvoo”.
In 2018, this specific Greek olive oil won first place in a category of the Evoo World Ranking. In fact, it found itself again in the first place of the world ranking in 2021, “a fact that has not been repeated until today, by another olive producer worldwide”.
“The impact that all these results and distinctions have around the world is twofold,” notes Mr. Sakellaropoulos.
“The first is that the passport of the Greek Olive Industry is constantly and uninterruptedly being “stamped” and the Greek olive oil is finding its place and way worldwide in a proven way. Let’s not forget that any distinction of a Greek olive oil promotes Greece and Greek olive growing first and foremost.
The second part concerns us, the organic olive groves of Sakellaropoulos. All these international distinctions and the world record open new horizons in the field of exports and commercial partnerships, since they surround us with prestige and strengthen our credibility as a company and as olive producers”.
Behind all these awards, perseverance, methodicality, organization, focus and the application of innovative methods based on scientific knowledge can be seen, “since our beginning” he answers.
“Innovation was and is at our core, essential innovation, I would say.” It is very important that the innovation has tangible results, that it has a substantial application, and that it does not remain only in theory and words, which sometimes have no application.
The most basic innovation, in our opinion, is to be able to undo what you have learned, to find new ways – methods in olive cultivation, and if they do not exist, to discover them. To adapt them to you with deep knowledge and experience, while it is very likely that you will have to “put them” on yourself, because essential innovation is certainly a very demanding process, and it has no elements of luck at all.
Single estate, terroir, biofunctional olive products and 5 universities
We have introduced many new terminologies to the Greek organic olive cultivation, with faithful application, scientific knowledge, many tests and tangible results, such as the Single Estate olive grove in a specific Terroir, regenerative organic olive cultivation, Bio-Functional Foods as well as olive products which belong to the category of Neutraceuticals.
Several innovations, clinical trials and research projects are now in the quiver of our organic olive groves, with synergies of famous American university institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, Auburn and Temple. Our latest innovation in collaboration with the Athens School of Pharmacy of EKPA is the 3rd clinical study in patients with hyperlipidemia, after 2 clinical studies with excellent results and the granting of an international patent for the transformation of our organic table olives, in the form of powder into a capsule , which will help reduce cholesterol levels.
The indisputable superiority of Greek olive oil and the olive as a product are constantly and timelessly demonstrated. With the seal of the “Greek traditional product”, included high in the list of national products, the olive and its extra virgin olive oil are the “base of the Mediterranean nutritional pyramid ” and develop into a “functional food of the future”.
We emphasize the designation “functional food of the future” but nothing in my opinion is unrelated to the two previous designations. On the contrary, I would say that olive oil and table olives, our national products, are based on them in order to develop, in which I believe very much in their enormous health protection value, which, based on my knowledge, I believe that we have not discovered all of it until today”.
Climate change and impacts
The effects of climate change on olive growing are, however, what also worries the “best European olive producer”. “They are now visible to the naked eye…There can be no doubt, and its effects affect us all indiscriminately, producers and consumers.” I believe that the most serious threat for the coming decades is the disruption of the environment we live in and of planetary health in general. In other words, what will we leave as a living space for the next and younger generations”.
Finally commenting on the situation in the internal olive oil market, Mr. Sakellaropoulos points out that “the ordinary consumer has a huge power, and this is the very market he makes, with which he can impose the rules. First and foremost to procure standardized branded olive oil, which has certifications, olive oil produced by companies or producers that provide confidence in the market and its quality. The olive oil purchased by consumers should generally have aromas, freshness and a pleasant taste and aftertaste, i.e. superior organoleptic characteristics as we must not forget that olive oil is the juice of the olive”.