Largest U.S. olive oil importer Sovena USA becomes first U.S. laboratory to be certified for chemical testing of olive oil by International Olive Council

ROME, New York , December 5, 2011 (press release) – Sovena USA, the largest importer of olive oil in the country, has become the first ever United States laboratory to be certified for chemical testing of olive oil by the International Olive Council (IOC). At a time when consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about their olive oil purchases, Sovena USA has positioned itself to help reassure buyers and consumers that its oils meet the globally accepted standards.

Since its inception, the IOC has set trade standards and promoted common guidelines for acceptable chemical and sensory testing methods for olive oil, as defined in the "Trade Standard Applying to Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils." There are only 50 IOC certified chemical testing laboratories worldwide, and Sovena USA is currently the only laboratory in America to receive the recognition. The Central NY-based company is currently the largest private label supplier nationwide, packing more than 50% of all store brand olive oil.

"This is a tremendous achievement for our company," said Dr. Gabriel Estevez, Chief Operating Officer at Sovena USA. "We were the first olive oil company in the U.S. to import in bulk and distribute in large volumes. We were the first olive oil company to achieve SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification in 2009. We were the first to win Product of the Year in the Cooking Category for our Olivari Mediterranean Olive Oil in 2011. And now, we are the first to hold the IOC lab certification. This is big news for us and for the U.S. olive oil market."

Companies must undergo a rigorous process to be considered for the certification. Labs must first meet their local accreditation standards, which for Sovena was achieving ISO 17025 certification (International Organization for Standardization) in January 2010. Then, labs must prove in regular check tests that they are competent in applying the methods of analysis recommended by the IOC. After meeting these standards, Sovena USA was added to the esteemed list of certified labs, as posted on the IOC website at http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/226-laboratories-panels. This list is submitted to the IOC members annually at their November session, this year Nov 21 – 25 in Madrid, Spain.

Olive oil is a growing category within the otherwise stagnant fats and oils segment. Because of its high monounsaturated fat content, olive oil is a healthier alternative to many other fats and cooking oils. Over the past 18 months, questions challenging the quality of olive oil have received publicity and raised awareness of the potential for fraud. As one of the country's top suppliers of olive oil, Sovena USA's certification by the IOC provides another level of assurance to partners and customers in the retail, foodservice and industrial markets.

"Quality is at the heart of our company and our products," Estevez concluded. "We actually have a 25 foot banner draped in our production plant to act as a daily reminder to our employees about our high expectations. It's satisfying to know that we can support that message with well-respected certifications."

Founded in 1959 in Madrid, Spain, the IOC is the globally recognized intergovernmental organization for the olive oil industry. IOC members account for 98% of the world's olive production. The Council is a decisive player in contributing to the sustainable and responsible development of olive growing and it serves as a world forum for discussing policymaking issues and tackling present and future challenges in the industry.

For more information about Sovena USA, visit www.sovenausa.com.



About Sovena: With a global presence and servicing those in more than 70 countries, the Sovena Group is the second largest olive oil company in the world, constantly inspiring people to eat healthier and tastier by using olive oil. Sovena is involved in every step of the supply chain – from the olive tree to the store shelf – and owns tens of thousands of olive groves worldwide. The country's largest importer of olive oil, Sovena USA supplies more than 50% of all private label olive oil sold in the U.S., as well as distributing branded products GEM® and Olivari® Mediterranean Olive Oil. Sovena USA offers a full portfolio of edible oils including olive oils, organic oils, high-volume frying oils, and a complete line of vinegars. Based in Rome, NY, our state-of-the-art bottling facility is complemented by our on-site quality control lab – the only lab of its kind on U.S. soil, which helped make us the first olive oil plant in the world to obtain Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification. For more information about Sovena USA, visit www.olive-oil.com.

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