In this episode, Jonathan has a conversation with Merve Doran, co-founder of OLEAMEA, an organic extra virgin olive oil producer based in Turkey. OLEAMEA works with farmers to buy early harvest olives and while practicing sustainable production that relies on the traditions of artisans and local masters.
The conversation starts with Merve talking about her family and how they have been producing olive oil in the southwest region of Turkey for generations. Sensing a gap in organic farming practices, she and her brother decided to invest in their infrastructure through local partnerships. The small region housed about 1000 olive farmers, and they helped them get certified and better understand the business side of farming.
She mentions that many farms in the region are on mountains where no modern machinery can be brought in and explains how this leads to farmers having ample questions on the sustainability of the business. Due to these situational factors, she describes her initial days as a period that focused heavily on consulting, working with engineers & consultants.
Merve began her career in HR and discusses how going after her dream of working with her family’s extra virgin olive oil made perfect sense given her family roots.
She explains how OLEAMEA works with farmers to buy early harvest olives from their farms (not their oils) which they then harvest together. This, she says, allows them to control everything from farmers to end products in terms of quality and pricing.
Having never bought olive oil off the shelf, Merve describes her experience of relying on store-bought olive oil during her stay in Milan as highly disappointing. This made her want to push her products to the forefront knowing that the quality and pricing of her products are far better.
She also acknowledges that there is limited knowledge around olive oil quality for consumers so she has aligned her marketing and PR efforts to help educated people. She also highlights how they focus on social media as a way to introduce people to the different uses of the product and that an agency in Turkey is helping the brand roll out olive oil-based recipes of different cuisines from around the world.
The conversation ends with Merve revealing her future plans where she mentions that olive oil is going to be the core and that she will expand into different areas that use the oil.
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