Olive oil is no longer a simple lubricant used for cooking. Its many and varied uses, the health benefits thereof, and differences in terms of flavour and intensity are increasingly known and enjoyed by foodies all over. In South Africa, the consumers are blessed with a choice of high quality locally produced olive oils.
In recent years the growing number of awards won at major international olive oil competitions – even when pitted against countries like Italy and Spain – attest to the fact that the quality of South African olive oils can hold their own with the best of the world. The sustainable health of the South African olive and olive oil industry stands at the heart of the activities of SA Olive, the association representing the common interests of growers, producers, processors and importers.
By means of the SA Olive Awards, annually held in August, SA Olive gives recognition to the country’s top extra virgin olive oils of the particular year’s harvest. Entries are blind-judged by a panel of qualified tasters; where after medals are awarded in the categories for Delicate, Medium and Intense olive oils.
In a show of confidence in the olive industry, Absa, which previously sponsored the Absa Top 5 Olive Oil Awards, has now indicated that it will extend this honour to ten exceptional olive oils. The very best gold award recipients of the SA Olive Awards are chosen as finalists for the Absa Top 10 Olive Oil Awards.
“Several encouraging factors influenced our decision to double the number of winners,” said Willie Zastron, former Provincial Head Business Banking, Absa. ”The continued growth seen in the quality of locally produced olive oils, the rise in the number of SA Olive Award entries, as well as the consumer’s increased demand for quality olive oils and loyalty to local suppliers, have convinced us to expand the platform for recognition to the top 10 olive oils. In this way we are not only pledging our support to individual producers, we are simultaneously creating opportunities for increased commercialisation in a fast-growing industry, access to markets and sustained job creation in rural communities.”
According to SA Olive chairperson, Nick Wilkinson, the SA Olive Awards, as well as the Absa Top 10, serves as a two-pronged approach to give recognition to the industry. “In the first instance we laud producers for their dedication and hard work in creating a superb product,” he says, “and in the second place, we help guide the consumer in their exploration of the proudly South African offering.