Any self-respecting foodie dork probably knows about the Judgment of Paris, when then-upstart California wines beat out their French competitors during a blind tasting in France in 1976. Olisur, an upstart Chilean olive oil producer did something similar last year, beating out Italy and Spain at a prestigious olive oil tasting in Italy.
So Olisur president Jay Rosengarten and executive director Jose Pablo LaFuente know a few things about taking on the big guys in an established product category. "Our competition is old school—what they have is history, 30 years of creating an image for a brand," says Rosengarten. "But there's a 'wow' factor when people taste our oils." Here are three things they've learned:
• Make sure your product is of the highest quality and fairest price in its category. Unlike its competitors, Olisur's olives are mechanically harvested as opposed to hand-shaken, meaning that the time elapsed from harvest to factory is much shorter—resulting in a less acidic oil. It's also cheaper to harvest via machine. (Their O-Live & Co. oil retails for $7.99 for a 500-ml. bottle; similar-quality oils can go for twice that.) "We go to press within two hours of harvesting the fruit," says Rosengarten. "So we control the acidity. And the taste and freshness is incredible."
• Be willing to make changes quickly in response to growth. "This took off faster than any of us expected," says Rosengarten, who launched Olisur in the U.S. in June 2010. "So we're repositioning our packaging and developing a more consumer-friendly website."
• Don't be afraid to educate the customer in as many ways as possible. "We just need to get people to try the product," says LaFuente. "The Culinary Institute of America uses our oil in their kitchens at school and we're getting placements in restaurants across the country," adds Rosengarten, who says that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube campaigns are also in the works. "Our challenge is to get the message across to the consumer."
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1