Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Making of an Olive Oil Supply Chain

As promised my vacation in Sicily is over and I have two supply chain tales to tell. This week I will discuss Becchina Olive Oil.

Towards the end of the vacation we traveled to Castlevetrano world reknown for olives. Arriving 15 minutes early before officially opening, the daughter of Gianfranco Becchina, founder of the company, gave my family and I a personal tour of the small, but efficient and spotless facility.

A few things set Becchina apart from other oils. First, the way they pick the olives. They pick them earlier in the season, around late October for a intense, fruity taste. While this limits the quantity, it improves quality, which is the foundation of Becchina's strategy. Secondly, instead of using a machine to shake the olives down, which when hit the ground get bruised, thus effecting taste, Becchina hires locals in Castlevetrano who pick each olive by hand. Each olive then gets gently placed in a sack that hangs around their neck. In order to keep the olives within reach, Becchina goes through the pain of keeping the trees short enough to be in arms reach. Another ode to quality and not quantity. Lastly, Becchina invented a machine that removes the leaves, snails and dirt that many olive oil companies simply grind up into oil. Yuck, indeed. When you use Becchina you are just getting pure oil, the company also refuses to spray chemicals. One tip I also learned was to keep your oil at room temp in dark cupboards to keep it from going stale.

So that's manufacturing. From a logistics standpoint, the bottles are flown to the US where they are sold in high-end gourmet shops and at niche grocery stores like Whole Foods. Next week I'll discuss the pistachios of Bronte.


Bill said...

Nice story about manufacturing. Few people know how real things are made, so thanks for sharing this one.

Anonymous said...

I love this oil and it is nice to know that my favoritism has merit.
Thanks for a nice story about an olive oil I frequently rave about and spend too much money on!

Kelly T. Smith said...

Is it cost effective to ship something as bulky as olive oil by air? Did the family give any insight into shipping spoilage concerns? How is the cool temperatures and darkness necessarily maintained? Solely by bottling?

Christopher Sciacca said...

Well this particular oil costs $25 a bottle and in Sicily I only paid $12. So the logistics costs are passed to the consumer. The cold temp is actually okay for oil. Its super heat that hurts the taste. So it actually works out okay.

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