Jo Sealy from Waltham Forest Business Network meets an Italian farmer whose organic olive oil graces many local markets
A Highams Park couple are bringing a little taste of southern Italy to East London.
Collana Verde is run by Alfonso Petti and Indre Cukuraite, who produce extra virgin olive oil at their farm in Campania, southern Italy, and import the oil to London where it is sold through retail shops, farmers markets and through their website.
The family-run business started in January 2020 and is part of the couple’s longer-term plan to be
closer to nature. “Three years ago we bought the farm with a view to producing organic virgin olive oil which we could sell in the UK, where we live for most of the year,” Alfonso explained.
“Our olive grove’s rich biodiversity enables us to create a uniquely delicate and high-quality virgin olive oil.”
The couple maintain the farm and the olive grove mostly from the UK; in Italy they employ seasonal workers during the harvest period.
“It’s been a huge achievement to set up the enterprise in Italy, produce and export the oil, get the product launched, and start selling it widely in the UK through our website.
“We deliver locally and the feedback we’ve had from our clients has been amazing, resulting in lots of repeat orders.”
Setting up a new business in the shadow of a world pandemic has created extraordinary challenges.
The team managed to sell at two farmers’ markets before the UK lockdown; they then lost some of their initial stockists as shops were shut down. It’s meant a rethink of their business approach, with a shift of emphasis to their online shop and leafleting locally which has helped them to maintain sales. Plans are in the pipeline to add to their product range – to include 100% olive oil soap for example – and the team are confident that they can achieve their target of around 500 customers in the next 12 months.
Alfonso is looking ahead. “Our main challenge for the coming weeks and the rest of this year is being able to travel to our farm in Italy and be involved in the harvest process to ensure enough olive oil is produced and shipped over for the Christmas period and for 2021.”
For more information about Collana Verde:
Do you know a great small business in Waltham Forest with a story to tell?