Nick Sakellaropoulos grew up watching his father and grandfather create unique products based on a family tradition infused with olives and olive oil. “My grandfather learned from his father,” explained Nick. “I guess you could say it is a family trade that runs through our Spartan heritage for thousands of years,” with each generation passing down “the ‘secrets’ of olive growing and olive oil production.”
The Sakellaropoulos family has added modern knowledge to the secrets of millennia. Between the Taygetos and Parnonas mountains, beneath the castle of Mystras in Sparta, Lakonia, Nick’s grandfather cultivated the olive trees he planted using only organic methods.
Initially, says Nick, “‘organic’ was a word almost nonexistent in Greece. But ‘organic’ is a word we believe in. My grandfather taught me that word. He helped raise me and my sister this way.” And it remains central to his family’s philosophy.
In 1992, Nick and his father George started a company called Sakellaropoulos Organic Farming. They continued to pursue the simple goal of Nick’s grandfather: “create the best possible olives and olive oil that can be defined as functional foods – food that sustains and improves health” as well as being tasty.
His grandfather used to call this “ariston,” which means “excellence, perfection” in Greek. “My grandpa sought the absolute best in anything he did,” always striving to improve—as his descendants do today. “That was a man’s excellence for him.”
To his grandfather’s traditional wisdom, Nick’s father added new knowledge, research, and innovation. In 1994 and 1995 the company produced and distributed the first unripe and first harvest organic extra virgin olive oils in Greece. In 1997 they came up with the idea of unsalted organic Kalamata olives. In 1998 they started creating flavored olive oils with local Lakonian flavors, “always from our farm, always from our groves, always produced and packaged by our family. Only premium healthy organic products.”
Their flavored premium oils include some unusual combinations, for example, unripe Koroneiki olive oil, oranges, lemons, and wild thyme (Syllektikon), or Koroneiki olive oil infused with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, sage, and lemon (Enigma). Their range of organic table olives includes low salt and vinegar-free options (using lemon and lemon zest), unripe Kalamata olives, and olives with natural flavors such as apple or ouzo.
Seeking to take his “family’s dreams and tradition to the next step,” Nick earned a master’s degree as a chemical engineer specializing in food technology. Now he and his father continue their project of lifelong learning “to keep on top of emerging new developments.” In their own processing and packaging facilities, the Sakellaropoulos family uses sophisticated scientific equipment, “monitoring our products every step of the way, from the tree to the table.”
The result: high quality, prize-winning products with scientifically proven health benefits. Sakellaropoulos Organic Farming has earned 85 awards for their gourmet olives and premium organic olive oils in international taste, quality, and health benefit competitions in just five years. This includes awards for olives that have the most phenolic compounds worldwide (Aristoleo High Phenolic Awards, 2017 and 2018).
The Sakellaropoulos family’s traditional production process, using only natural fermentation and no pasteurization, enables the healthy elements to remain in the olives. Scientific evidence for their products’ health benefits and various awards and certifications, including ISO, BIO-Hellas, and FDA, indicate that Nick’s grandfather’s goals have been reached.
Even so, the family’s efforts continue. For example, they collaborate with universities and participate in important studies by donating their products. One scientific study used the Sakellaropoulos family’s Kalamata table olives, which contain five times more of the healthy phenolic compounds hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol than usual, according to lab tests. That study revealed that eating just five of these olives per day can improve the cholesterol profile enough that it may help reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
The Harvard University Feeding America’s Bravest study of the effect of the Mediterranean diet on firefighters in the USA is also using the family’s healthy high phenolic extra virgin olive oil. Still underway, that trial seeks to reduce the risk of American firefighters dying from heart attacks, which are more of a threat to them than burns or smoke inhalation. Associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and depression, the traditional Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil may offer help.
Sakellaropoulos Organic Farming exports to 14 countries, including the USA, Australia, Canada, UK, France, and Germany, so, as Nick says, many food lovers will have the opportunity to “taste the difference!” Nick adds, “We love what we do and we do what we love! Sharing our soul.”
For more news and information from the Greek olive oil world, plus agrotourism and food tourism suggestions, recipes with olive oil, and photos from Greece see Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.