A big part of our business in the past has been providing equipment to small olive oil producers, essentially boutique operations. Small producers still make up the bulk of our equipment sales augmented with items for retail sales operations. A large part of my time these days is spent working in a consulting capacity for these smaller operations. This work involves everything from checking on olive orchards to helping with equipment decisions or facility layouts for olive oil producers as well as giving advice on setting up new retail operations. Last week I was helping a small producer with their bottling operations.
Bottling olive oil in many ways is quite a simple undertaking, however, it has gotten a lot more complicated in the last couple of years with the advent of the F.D.A.s FSMS (Food Security Monitoring System) for which compliance requirements began to kick in September of 2016. While many of the operations we deal with are exempt from the FSMS laws as they are farms, there is a lot to be gained in terms of good management practices from those requirements. For better or worse, now more than ever, producers need to evaluate whether it is worth doing their own bottling. The cost to set up even a small olive oil bottling line coupled with the time spent on regulatory compliance often makes it more logical just to send their product to a co-packer.
That being said, if you want to be able to have that "Estate Bottled" verbiage on your label, you have to pay the price for the equipment, labor, and compliance. In the case of the people I was working with last week, the cost of one of our Enolmatic fillers, which is more than capable of handling their bottling requirements, is just a very small fraction of the costs associated with them doing their bottling. In addition to the costs already mentioned above, they need to have a room with washable surfaces and that means investing in new flooring, wall surfaces and ceiling in the room they want to use. Additionally, they will need new lighting and a sink added. Given their production, I would encourage them to send their olive oil bottling out to a co-packer like The Olive Oil Source. Realistically they can probably bottle for 10 years with a co-packer for less than it will cost them to do it themselves.