Author: Claudia Frost
The Austrian Fritz Bläuel (picture) already launched his sustainable project 25 years ago. The company's organic cultivation of olive trees has its beginning in the mid-80s and is the oldest and largest project of this type in Greece. One of the reasons for the company's success is the focus on quality throughout the whole growing and production process. Thanks to the expertise and untiring work of its own qualified agricultural engineers, Bläuel not only meets the specifications of the Greek organic certification body Bio-Hellas, but also complies with the standards of the German organization Naturland and those of Swiss BioSuisse.
Bläuel's organic olives comply with EU and NOP/USDA regulations. Bläuel is one of the few companies in Greece which has achieved the IFS quality certifications, as well as ISO 9001 and 22000. Independent of these industry standards and requirements, Bläuel has established its own “Golden Rules” and in its commitment to quality it adheres strictly to them: single variety cultivar, manual harvest, and immediate cold pressing and storage. Besides olive oil, olives and hors d'oeuvres are offered.
More than 300,000 olive trees are part of the production process. Bläuel has numerous achievements, especially regarding the “Koroneiki” olive tree variety (picture), naturally selected through the centuries and perfectly adapted to the particular conditions of climate and soil of the area. More than 500 agricultural enterprises have been converted to organic by Bläuel. Over more than 25 years, plants and animals have been benefiting from the company's work. Areas with wild herbs are expanding, biodiversity of insects has increased, and bees are able to harvest in safe surroundings
Production has been increased and a new production line and a new storage facility have been opened, so no production process needs to be outsourced any more. Energy saving also is an important issue for the company. As the first processing company in Greece, Bläuel has installed a photovoltaic plant on its new storage hall, which produces as much energy as is being used throughout the year. (Picture to the right: chemist at work)
Supporting the local economy in Mani, a region in the South of Pelopennese, where the only options for employment were either emigration or seasonal work with tourism, is also important to the company. This is achieved by fairness towards producers and workers regarding purchase prices, wages, health and safety measures and respect for workers' rights. Particular attention, of course, is given to the quality of the products, applying strictly all the international standards and deliberately keeping the company quite small (“family-owned”) in order to have control over every phase of production. Besides quality management, the second production hall guarantees the preservation of the jobs of the company’s 30 employees and it hopes to hire further staff in the future. For the employees, this means regular incomes and higher wages as organic cultivators on account of higher prices for the oils and purchase guarantees. (Picture to the left: photovoltaic plant, view on the sea)
The children of the people of Mani, some of them with diplomas from Athens, see a chance of finding employment back in their home region. Some years ago, the so-called “Bläuel-Cosmos” was enlarged with the creation of a new training centre. It is a place for meditation and healing, a meeting place, a place to rest, a hideaway for holidays and the first “cultural playground” in the region of Mani. (Picture: view over the shore)
The company has received various awards. This year alone, the Organic Mani-Bläuel Kalamata DOC Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil was named Best Organic Olive Oil at the BioFach Fair in February 2010. Bläuel oil was chosen as the best among 74 competing oils from all over the world. Organic Mani-Bläuel Extra Virgin Olive Oil received the Platinum Taste Award at the Competition of Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil during the 4th Festival of Olive Oil and Olives in Piraeus in March this year, one of the most important meetings in Greece focused on olive oil. (Picture to the left: certificate of BioFach)
Organic Mani-Bläuel Extra Virgin Olive Oil has collected the Gold Award at the expo & competition "Monocultivaroliveoil" held May, organized by Frantoi Celletti Cultivar in Milan, as well as the Bronze Award at the 2010 Oil China International Olive Oil Competition. The Diploma di Gran Menzione was handed over in Parma at the 4th International Olive Oil Competition "ARMONIA" -ALMA Trophy. This was the first time ever a Greek oil was among the winners at this competition. The gourmet award of the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia was also given to the company, and in Marco Oreggia, FLOS OLEI 2010, a guide to the best olive oils worldwide, Bläuel's oil is named as one of the best and a precise description of the product is given.
In an interview Ms Silvia Lazzari, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Bläuel Greek Organic Products, told Organic-Market.Info that the main export countries for their products are Germany and Austria. Also, a large percentage of products is exported to Switzerland, and medium or small quantities go all over the world – for example to Denmark, the USA, France and China. At this point in time, the company is focusing on the central European market. So far, 99 % of sales have been achieved abroad. Most of Bläuel's products are sold under the company's name in specialised organic stores. A small percentage, however, is produced for conventional supermarkets under their private label. (Picture: products for the Danish market)
According to Ms Lazarri, there seems to be increasing interest in certified organic products in Greece. The country has a long agricultural tradition, and awareness of nature and the provenance of products is very high. People know about safe, genuine food and seem to be ready to listen to the “organic message” and, therefore, it is predicted that interest in certified products will rise. This development has already begun, but due to the financial crisis it will need a new boost. In Athens, where about half of the Greek population lives, organic products are offered in various specialised stores (we reported earlier). Some conventional supermarkets in Greece have a special section devoted to organics. (Picture: Labeling of an olive oil bottle at Bläuel's production plant)