What We Do
The UC Davis Olive Center’s goal is to do for olives what UC Davis did for wine by:
- Pushing innovation. We pursue research with a fresh perspective, applying modern scientific knowledge and technology to an ancient crop.
- Providing services. We offer independent chemical & sensory analysis, free web resources, and “must-attend” educational events.
- Promoting the tipping point. We provide independent, research-based information to professional buyers and regulators to promote consumer embrace of quality.
The UC Davis Olive Center has built a strong university/industry coalition aimed at meeting the research and education needs of olive growers and processors. Since its founding in 2008, the Center has delivered more than $2 million in research benefits while supporting itself through product sales, fee-based laboratory analysis, research grants, and donations.
Notable achievements include:
- Exposing quality problems with imported olive oil. The Center received extensive international attention for its finding that most major brand "extra virgin" olive oil purchased by consumers failed international standards.
- Documenting consumer preference for California table olives. The Center analyzed sliced California-style “black ripe” olives from various countries, finding distinct sensory defects in olives produced in some nations, and consumer preference for black-ripe olives grown and processed in California.
- Enacting olive oil grade standards for California. Olive Center staff provided technical assistance to the California Olive Oil Council to pass a law in California establishing olive oil grade standards and labeling requirements.
- Reviving table olive processing research. The Center led the UC to become engaged in such research for the first time in decades, examining methods for increasing nutritional value of black-ripe olives, preventing fermentation-defects in Sicilian-style olives, and extracting more value from the processing waste stream.
- Providing essential educational opportunities. The Center has presented educational events that include topics such as Super-High-Density Olive Production, Master Milling, Olive Oil Marketing and Olive Oil Sensory Evaluation. These events have emerged as must-attend networking and educational gatherings.
- Partnering with federal regulators. The Center has trained United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors on the sensory evaluation of table olives and olive oil, and has joined USDA scientists in joint research projects.
- Pursuing mechanical harvesting research. The Center has worked with the table olive industry in a multi-year effort to develop an efficient mechanical harvesting system for medium-density orchards.
- Establishing oil laboratory. The Center has established the UC Davis Olive Oil Center Sensory and Chemistry Laboratory, offering fee-based services for olive oil analysis.
- Developing international partnerships. The Center has developed research with IRTA, University of Cordoba, Instituto de la Grasa, University of Athens, and Australia Oils Research Laboratory; and presenting an international conference on olive oil excellence with Association 3-E in Italy and The Culinary Institute of America.
- Pushing the tipping point. Through live presentations and international media exposure (including The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian), the UC Davis Olive Center has increased consumer and buyer awareness of determining quality and value in olive products.
- Evaluation of Olive Oil Sold to Restaurants and Foodservice Selina Wang, Ed Frankel, Dan Flynn, 2012.
- Microbiological Food Safety of Olive Oil: A Review of the Literature. Mary Palumbo and Linda J. Harris. 2011
- Evaluation of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Sold in California.
Frankel, E. N.; Mailer, R. J.; Wang, S. C.; Shoemaker, C. F.; Guinard,
J.-X.; Flynn, J. D.; Sturzenberger, N. D. 2011.
- Tests Indicate that Imported "Extra Virgin" Olive Oil Often Fails International and USDA Standards .
Frankel, E. N.; Mailer, R. J.; Shoemaker, C. F.; Wang, S. C.; Flynn, J.
- Consumer Olive Oil Preferences. Claudia Delgado, Jean-Xavier Guinard, 2010.
- Descriptive Analysis and Consumer Testing of Imported and Domestic Sliced Table Olives.
Soh Min Lee and Jean-Xavier Guinard, 2010.
- Consumer Perceptions for Extra Virgin Olive Oils, M. Santosa and J.-X. Guinard, 2010
- California Super-High-Density Olive Production Survey. Nicole Sturzenberger, Dan Flynn, Libby Clow, 2009
- Olive Oil Waste Management Matrix, Nicole Sturzenberger and Dan Flynn, 2007