Executive Q&A with Dusan Kaljevic, CEO, Filippo Berio USA
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Executive Q&A with Dusan Kaljevic, CEO, Filippo Berio USA

Kaljevic discusses harvest, challenges and opportunities ahead.

On January 1 2023, Dusan Kaljevic became CEO of Filippo Berio USA, the U.S. subsidiary of Salov Group. His tenure with the organization spans more than a decade. We sat down with Kaljevic to reflect on his early days as CEO and on what lies ahead for Filippo Berio and the olive oil industry.

Executive Q&A with Dusan Kaljevic, CEO, Filippo Berio USA
Villa Filippo Berio surrounded by olive trees in the Tuscan countryside
First, congratulations. We hope you’ve been able to ease into your position in these initial months.

Thank you. I stepped into the CEO role at a busy time for the olive oil industry. While many agricultural producers have long completed their harvests, olive growers were just reaching the end in January and even February, depending on the region. Now, as the last of the fruit is being squeezed, we are getting a more complete understanding of the yield and what it will mean for our brand and customers.

How does this harvest compare to previous years?

Unfortunately, the 2022-23 global harvest will be the lowest it’s been since records began, as drought conditions and extreme temperatures wreaked havoc on olive groves last year. Overall, we expect about 20% less final product reaching consumers. Fortunately, Filippo Berio has a large, reliable network of producers, and these relationships mean that we continue to access product that meets our quality specifications.

For the industry, what do you see as the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity?

In the near term, the greatest challenge we’re facing is navigating the higher costs that have resulted from this harvest season. In a typical year, the world’s producers achieve approximately 3.1 million metric tons, and this latest harvest is expected to deliver about 2.6 million-2.7 million. With less raw product, olive oil companies are experiencing higher costs across the rest of the supply chain, which will spill over to the prices consumers see in markets.

Although price is a challenge, we have an opportunity as an industry, especially in the U.S., to educate consumers about the value of olive oil. The health benefits associated with olive oil are compelling, and the industry as a whole can do a better and more coordinated job of communicating messages that support imported and domestic brands alike.

Executive Q&A with Dusan Kaljevic, CEO, Filippo Berio USA
Dusan Kaljevic, CEO of Filippo Berio USA, with the brand’s diverse range of extra-virgin olive oils
For Filippo Berio USA, what have been your priorities during this first quarter as CEO?

Understanding Filippo Berio’s heritage of high standards across everything we do and knowing the harvest and price challenges, I have three priorities: our costs, our quality and our team. 

First, we are paying attention to costs in what is projected to be a difficult year, but we want to stay close to our customers and provide product. It will be a balancing act. Second, we never compromise on quality. We secured good-quality oils early in the harvest to ensure we put the best-quality products with the best flavor profiles on the shelves. And finally, we can only be successful if we have best-in-class people, so we are strengthening our team internally and with new hires. 

What are your goals for Filippo Berio USA in the short and long terms?

Overall, our goal is to achieve a coast-to-coast strategy. Filippo Berio is well known on the East Coast, and we are striving for similarly strong brand recognition across the country as we expand distribution westward. In the short term, we’ll be adjusting our pricing strategy to one that is tailor-made across channels. We’re also investing in reaching future users of olive oil, pesto and specialty vinegars, from incorporating more digital and social media campaigns to considering new products and innovations.

In the long term, our goal is to be a key player in the West — and throughout the country — with the highest quality and widest range of product. We are exploring new categories with more focus. And, as always, we will concentrate on talent development, as we need the right people in place to make projects possible.

How has Filippo Berio evolved to meet consumer and retail needs?

Consumers are looking for healthy, functional, sustainable choices in the supermarket. Filippo Berio has always delivered high-quality olive oil, considered a good fat and a healthy oil; that is a message we will expand on in the future. But our brand has also evolved to be more sustainable. In 2022, we launched our new SUSTAINABLE SELECT EVOO collection, which offers a completely traceable field-to-table experience and is sourced from sustainably nurtured groves. We also introduced more environmentally friendly packaging: bottles made of 50% recycled plastic (rPET).

Finally, what makes you passionate about your work?

First, the people are the best part. Filippo Berio is family — we share ideas, knowledge, opinions and emotions. Our constant open dialog is part of the culture. Second, the product is meaningful personally. I grew up in Viareggio, Tuscany, playing soccer and riding bikes among olive trees. My afternoon snack was bread and olive oil, and that childhood experience fuels my passion.