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The Coldani Family: A Multi-Generational Business Built on Love and Expertise

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Olive oil has been a part of civilization since the dawn of time. Olive trees have been cultivated around the Mediterranean since the eighth millennium BCE; historically, Spain is the largest producer of olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. However, olive oil consumption in North America is rising steadily thanks to a boom in interest in healthier living and a desire to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or EVOO, for everything from cooking to skin care. Although the Mediterranean regions have been the primary producers of EVOO, accounting for 98 percent of world output, one Lodi-based, family-owned and operated business is determined to secure its portion of market share.

Meet the Coldanis
Coldani Olive Ranch is literally a family business, and the label extends beyond the welcoming feel visitors get when they visit the sprawling estate and farm. The Coldani family, all four generations, including their spouses and children, are the heartbeat and driving force of Calivirgin Olive Oil Company. As a team, the family, along with a few employees, shares the workload and handles every aspect of the process from tree to bottle. All tasks, from growing the olives, processing them into oil, bottling, package design, marketing, sales, participating in tasting events and shipping, are split up and shared by the team.

At center stage is Jeanne Coldani, fondly known as the matriarch of the family. Working alongside her in the business’ efforts to make Calivirgin Olive Oil a household name are her daughter, Gina Coldani Sans, and daughter-in-law, Julie Coldani. Gina handles tasks such as sales and the design of marketing materials. Julie also works in sales and acts as the business’ director of public relations; Jeanne affirmed that she “does a little bit of everything.” All three women work together on the process of shipping their oils across the U.S. and hosting gatherings at the Coldani Olive Ranch’s tasting room.

Making a Name for Themselves
In 2007, the Coldanis felt a need to shift from being olive growers to developing their own brand. Knowing it was a gamble, the family changed direction and worked together to create and market a retail product. “When we were working on branding for Calivirgin, we knew we wanted something very modern-looking and fresh,” Julie noted. “We were targeting a look that no other olive oil companies were going after. We also were using fresh produce to flavor our olive oils, not artificial extracts, as many other companies were doing. Our goal was to set Calivirgin apart from the competition by producing a superior, natural product that also appealed to people’s elevated taste buds.”

After years of perfecting their crop, process and brand, the Coldanis produced their first bottle of Calivirgin oil in 2007. The brand’s humble beginnings included working day jobs and bottling oil at night to fill orders. Soon the demand became so great they needed to jump in with both feet; in 2012, they gave 100 percent of their attention to their business. Fast-forwarding five more years, the family’s hard work has resulted in popular flavors of olive oils including perennial favorites such as Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Guilty Garlic Olive Oil and Bountiful Basil Olive Oil along with new varieties such as Habanero, White Truffle and Blood Orange Olive Oil.

“When we say we know each and every bottle inside and out, we mean it,” Gina shared. “We feel the passion we have to produce a quality extra virgin olive oil resonates in our finished product. Our family is hands on with our products from beginning to end, and we never cut corners on what we bottle, no matter what.”

The Coldani women shared that their flagship and first product, Calivirgin Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is estate grown. The family has agreed to not use pesticides, and their unwavering mission to organically and sustainably produce a quality product has paid off. Their olive oils have consistently medaled in all of the national competitions, with 352 awards to date. These accomplishments have also given the Coldani family the distinction of being one of the most awarded companies in the nation.

Jeanne noted that the company’s mindful shift to creating unique, fresh, aromatic, fruity flavored oils that are perfect for dipping, but mild enough to use as a culinary staple in kitchens, is one of the many reasons for their success. “Our flavored olive oils have been milled the exact same way as our premium extra virgin olive oil, except they have been crushed with fresh produce and herbs,” she confirmed. “The result is naturally flavored oils with no additives or preservatives that are healthier options while also being delicious.”

“One of our taglines is that our olive oil is so good it should be on the wine list,” Gina added with a laugh. “And our customers agree!”

Planning for the Future
As the Coldani family business keeps growing and evolving, so does the discussion about its future and how the company can continue to give back to the community they love. Calivirgin’s business plan includes exciting advancements such as incorporating a little wine into their product line and building a larger tasting room. “We hope to build a tasting and educational center through which families can see the process of making what has been called the healthiest food in the market,” Gina noted.

“Growing also means that we will need to plant more trees to increase our production. This in turn will allow us to hire more local employees,” Julie added. “All of our plans for the future of Calivirgin Olive Oil Company include how we can further support this community as well. Giving back can be through donations or our personal involvement. I was on Leadership Lodi 2016 and I am currently on the board of directors for the California Olive Oil Council. Those are the opportunities to share our time and talents that this family looks for.”

Working as Family
As with any family business, the women agree that there are times to laugh together and times to steer clear. But at the end of the day it’s the family’s love and respect for each other that keeps the business humming along. “We all work so well together because we truly know each other’s personalities and strengths,” Julie revealed. “It’s also a gift to be able to work and play together as a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“We’ve been blessed with steady and continual growth as a company,” Gina added. “But there are days when it’s all we can do to hold on and not go crazy. But we also know that, on the hectic days, we need to pull together and get things done. And that’s exactly what we do.”

“Communication is so important when working with family,” Jeanne noted. “We respect each other to talk it out if we need to smooth things out. Thanks to the strong bond of family, we think anything is possible with this life and business.” ■