The family-run olive oil producer Rodau, based in Empordà, Catalonia, in the north-east of Spain, has just 10 workers. Yet its olive oil Dauro is already selling as afar afield as Japan, the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.
Rodau made the breakthrough into overseas markets thanks to EUREKA project EUROAGRI OLEA. The producer developed a more sophisticated process for extracting the oil from olives, by working with researchers from Seville and Jaen, as well as with Italy’s Alfa Laval, which manufactures olive oil extraction machinery. “We’ve produced an olive oil that is elegant, non-aggressive tasting and sweet in the good sense of the word,” says Esperanza Tomas, head of research and development at Rodau. “It’s being really well-received in Asia.”
"IT'S BEING REALLY WELL-RECEIVED IN ASIA."
As a result, sales have rocketed to about a million euros from 591,501 when Rodau started the project in 2005. In April, Dauro oil won a prize from Spain’s Agricultural Ministry in a blind tasting and was also praised at an international exhibition in China.
The secret of the Dauro taste was developed through a radical re-assessment of the way olives picked at the Empordà plantation were cleaned, ground into a paste and then mixed to produce the oil. The project participants discovered if they protected the olive paste from oxidation using an inert gas they could increase the quality of the olive oil obtained. The final olive oil smelt and tasted better and also had more polyphenol antioxidants which scientists think can help protect humans against neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. The new process is also more efficient, with more oil extracted from the same amount of olives.
Complementary skillsTomas says the success of the project was due to the variety of skills the partners shared. “If one of us couldn’t do something or didn’t know something, someone else would,” she explains. “We took a rigorous look at the process, from the plantation to the bottling stage.” The partners met about twice a year, throughout the three-year project, and always gathered when the olives were picked, to coordinate developments. “It was a very easy relationship and we have all remained in contact after the project,” said Tomas.
"THIS IS GOOD FOR THE IMAGE OF SPAIN ABROAD."
Alfa Laval has patented the mixing machine it developed during EUROAGRI OLEA and now sells the machinery. “We were their shop window,” says Tomas. Similarly, researchers participating in the project have gone on to publish academic papers about the scientific breakthroughs they achieved. Rodau has given itself a huge commercial boost through the project. However, Tomas thinks the achievement of her small company will also benefit other olive oil producers from her country. “This is good for the image of Spain abroad,” she says. “If we can sell well, it helps everyone.”