With 4,000 gallons already being unloaded here and 8,000 more at sea, Olex U.S.A. Corp. opened headquarters in the World Trade Center yesterday and set out to make Baltimore the East Coast capital of Catalonian extra-virgin olive oil.
With Americans increasingly health-conscious and U.S. olive oil sales growing by 15 percent or more for each of the past seven years, the company is taking aim at a share of the industrialized world's fastest-growing market for its product, said Eduard Pons, the firm's director.
The firm's three-member Baltimore office will oversee inbound shipping, warehousing, sales and distribution for the East Coast.
Mr. Pons said he expects the staffing to increase as sales grow, but the company has no firm projections.
Olex U.S.A., a subsidiary of one of Spain's most prominent olive-oil cooperatives with 6,000 farmers and 28 pressing plants, intends to begin by aiming for sales in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maryland, Mr. Pons said.
It will kick off its sales effort this weekend in New York, at the annual Fancy Foods Show, Miguel Puig, the sales manager, said.
The company will offer two brands of extra-virgin olive oil, the highest of the product's three grades. Under the brand name Olisol, it will offer a product for the general extra-virgin olive oil market to be sold through supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Under the name Romanico, it will offer an extra-virgin oil exclusively from the Arbagina olive, known among gourmets for the distinctive flavor it gives to oils used mainly for salads. The Romanico brand will be aimed at specialty food stores and restaurants.
Extra-virgin olive oil has a low acidity level and is pressed on the day the olive is picked.