story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 1/10/19
Could a pot-infused olive oil produced in Santa Barbara become the next gourmet food best-seller?
Foodies have their eyes on San Francisco this month, as the City by the Bay hosts one of the world’s largest exhibitions of gourmet foods. The Winter Fancy Food Show takes over the Mascone Center for three days, from January 13 to 15, and is expected to draw close to 70,000 people. That’s a lot of eyes – and a lot of taste buds – on more than 1,400 specialty food companies attending from around the globe, including five from Santa Barbara.
“It’s a sign that a company that does what we do has really come a long way,” says exhibitor Craig Makela, owner with wife Cindy of California Coast Naturals. Back in the early 1980s, when they owned Santa Barbara Olive Co., “no one would buy extra virgin olive oil. People didn’t know how to use it. It was too pungent, too strong. It’s taken a lot of years of consumer education.”
And olive oil’s come a long way, too. One of the nearly 20 new products California Coast Naturals will be intorudcing at next week’s show is an extra virgin olive oil infused with CBD, a compound in cannabis purported to have various medical benefits without the pot “high.” CBD, or cannabidiol, is often used to treat anxiety and even epileptic seizures. A five-ounce bottle of the Makelas’ oil, which is made from olives they grow organically on their Santa Barbara ranch, contains 150 mg. of CBD and “does not affect the flavor of the oil,” according to Chad Makela, the owners’ son. “You can use it just like any other old oil – in a salad, for dipping, for finishing off a pasta sauce or on pizza.” The product, which is marketed as a dietary supplement, has seen some consumer testing at local farmers’ markets and has received “the highest feedback we’ve gotten from any other product,” according to the younger Makela.
If it’s a hit at the Fancy Food Show, the CBD-infused EVOO could hit local store shelves immediately, with a suggested retail price of $29.99 for a five-ounce bottle.
The Makelas sold their popular brand in 2009 and, after a seven-year non-compete clause, reentered the fancy food arena with California Coast Naturals, which grows and produces a varied line of California-grown organic olives and olive oils. The pair began participating in the high-profile Fancy Food Show in 1983 when, as Craig Makela recalls, “there were only 270 booths and about 3000 visitors.” The husband-and-wife team, which has held myriad roles within the Specialty Food Association, which produces the show, were inducted into its Specialty Food Hall of Fame last year.
For Mr. Makela, the widely expanded visitor base is a continued opportunity to educate consumers, many of whom are still unaware that olives and oils sold at U.S. stores are actually imported. “Olive products with [domestic names on the label] – they actually come from South America or Europe.” Attending the Fancy Food Show is, in part, a chance to “shake up” the olive industry, he adds.
Other local companies attending next week’s show include McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, which introduced its new winter line of flavors just last week; Edward & Sons Trading Co., purveyors of vegetarian foods; Pacific Resources International, importers of Manuka honey and sea salt from New Zealand; and Pacific Pickle Works.
For more information on California Coast Naturals, check out cacoastnaturals.com.
For more information on the Winter Fancy Food Show, visit specialtyfood.com.