When one thinks of bottled olive oil, Italy probably comes to
mind. Since 2013, Brahim Slama, General Manager of Med Flavour
Inc., has been working to change this perception by importing olive
oil from his homeland of Tunisia to Canada. Slama's family in
Tunisia has been in the olive oil business since 1930. It is a
third-generation olive oil business. Interestingly, in 2015 Tunisia
is second in the world in olive oil production, after Spain and
just ahead of Italy.
Slama moved to Toronto in 2013 and studied the olive oil market
in Canada. He held meetings with supermarket reps, tracked prices
and gathered samples to take home to Tunisia for lab testing. He
discovered that a smooth-tasting olive oil appealed more to
Canadian palates than the sharper- tasting olive oil used in
Tunisia. Armed with his research, passion, and attention to detail,
the next step was to work on the branding. Slama explained:
"First we developed a single brand Oleiva, and from
there we identified two separate products: Oleiva Traditional,
which was tailor-made for the Canadian market, and Oleiva Premium
for the niche market, which is closer to the classic Tunisian olive
oil. We worked on the bottles and the labels. Oleiva Traditional
has a dark square bottle and label with gold rim. Oleiva
Premium's bottle is reminiscent of a wine bottle. I wanted a
classy bottle for gourmet shops and speciality stores. Once we had
the bottles and the labels designed, we conducted quality control
on the oils in Tunisia."
The Oleiva Traditional brand is produced with carefully
handpicked olives, which are cold pressed resulting in a rich
taste. The Traditional brand, geared specifically toward Canadian
tastes, is the one carried in supermarkets. The Oleiva
"Premium" brand is geared towards the connoisseur, and is
sold in boutique stores such as Cheese Boutique, Pusateri's and
Fiesta Farms. Slama said, "In Tunisia we grew up with
olive oil, and we use it daily for cooking, eating and medicinal
purposes. And we like the bitter taste. Households in Tunisia
usually have a large olive oil dispenser in the kitchen. It was
actually puzzling for my mom when she saw small bottles on grocery
shelves when she came to visit Canada!"
To create brand awareness, Slama entered Med Flavour's
Oleiva Traditional olive oil in a SIAL food trade show competition,
which included 110 olive oils from 14 different countries. The
company's olive oil won the silver "Olive d'Or 2014,
Goutte d'Argent" award. This confirmed to Slama that Med
Flavour had succeeded in producing a flavourable olive oil for
Canadian tastes. Next, Slama met with a food distribution company,
I-D Foods Corporation, and signed a three-year distribution deal to
distribute products in Ontario and Quebec, and then throughout
Slama discussed the next step of securing shelf space in
supermarkets: "Some retailers will allow its vendors to
testtheir products to evaluate their consumer appeal
before suppliers must invest in listing fees, which can be tens of
thousands of dollars per SKU. Sobeys was sceptical about another
olive oil, however, the rep liked our story, that it was a family
business, and was impressed with our marketing campaign. The test
was to have his mother try it first and approve the product. A few
days later, he said he liked the pricing and his mother loved the
olive oil. She said it was an amazing product."
Slama explained that one of the most effective marketing methods
was to offer samples in stores, which increased retail sales.
Elliot Richmond, Audit & Assurance Partner with Fuller
Landau, says the growth outlook is bright for his client Med
Flavour Inc. The company has started selling on vitarock.com (an
online Canadian store for natural health, beauty and household
products),and is planning to expand out west, and then into the US.
The product will also be sold at Highland Farms and Longos.
Slama's plan is to continue expanding its customer base and to
diversify into other Mediterranean products including tuna, dates
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