Ingredients matter. Plant-based, seasonal and local ingredient meals do a body and the community good. Food With Thought highlights food artisans who are committed to producing authentic exceptional food that is good for you and produced with the community and environment in mind.
La Tourangelle is a family owned and operated producer of handcrafted artisan nut oils in France and California. With an artisan mill in Woodland, California, all of their premium oils are expeller-pressed, non-GMO and made from California grown nuts. Below, is part of my conversation with Founder and CEO, Matthieu Kohlmeyer:
What was life like for you BEFORE you started La Tourangelle in California?
Before I started La Tourangelle in California, I lived in Paris. My life was shared between my business & management study (I graduated with a Master in Management from NEOMA Business school), travels and lots of fun! I love the thrill and discoveries that come with travelling. I have been backpacking in Central Asia and hitchhiking in France and across Europe; this is what drove me to come to the USA to start La Tourangelle. Good food has always been part of my upbringing: my grandfather lived in the Loire Valley and dedicated his retired life to his vegetable garden and his wine making- years of hard work yielded incredibly delicious ingredients- this is the foundation of French cooking: working with outstanding natural ingredients and making them shine. My Parisian life made me discover art, design and culture. Every time I go back to France, I always schedule time to visit art exhibits with my mother. It is very inspirational for me.
What’s the story behind La Tourangelle?
In 2002, I began La Tourangelle Artisan Oils with a vision to create delicious yet healthy French-style roasted nut oils that utilized locally harvested ingredients and produced directly in California. Leaving France in 2000, I relocated to Canada as a part of my business school’s exchange program and quickly discovered that nut oils sold in North America could be made so much better. My father had a nut oil mill in Saumur, France and I started writing the business plan of La Tourangelle in California. In 2001, after graduating from college, I raised money and in partnership with my father, started La Tourangelle; I imported roasting kettles and a massive hydraulic press to California. La Tourangelle pressed its first batch of roasted Walnut oil in June 2003 quickly followed by locally made oils including Hazelnut oil, Pistachio oil, Pecan oil and Almond oil. We know sell more than 20 oils.
What are the benefits of using nut oils as opposed to olive or vegetable?
Nuts are superfoods. Nut oils bring you all the oil soluble nutrients found in nuts. Walnut oil is rich in omega 3; one tablespoon covers your daily intake of omega 3. But most importantly, it is delicious and it helps you make your dishes more memorable. At La Tourangelle we believe that good food is good for you. We believe that good oils are oils that taste good. Good taste means a natural oil that has not been refined; a natural oil that is rich in nutrient, that is fresh. But good food is also about sharing good meals with friends and family, the foundation of happiness. We also believe that a good diet is a diverse diet. This is why we encourage our consumers to discover and use different oils and rotate oils.
What are some of the challenges of running a family owned business?
Running a family owned business offers the unique ability to focus on the long-term growth of the company without compromising the quality of the food we sell. We are driven by a vision but it is not short-term financials that dictates how we pick our ingredients or how we treat our stakeholders.
What is your food philosophy?
I believe that good food starts with good ingredients crafted with care. Less is more and diversity is key. Good food is about sharing with others and generosity is a first step toward happiness.
What advice do you have for people who want to get into the specialty food business?
The specialty food trade offers great opportunities as more and more consumers choose to pay more attention to what they eat. Good food makes for a great community of passionate individuals. Like in any business, passion is not sufficient. One needs to remain very realistic about market size, pricing strategy and competition. With hard work and careful preparation, it is a great place to start a business.
The specialty food business can be competitive. How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
The edible oil world is incredibly competitive but La Tourangelle is able to distinguish itself from competition by offering outstanding quality products at affordable prices packed in gorgeous packaging. The secret to our success reside in our production capabilities; La Tourangelle is actually roasting and pressing nuts into oils. Every can of oil we sell is bottled in our facility. Our strong control of the supply chain gives us a strong competitive advantage.
What are some of the benefits of sourcing your products, locally?
Sourcing and transforming products locally gives you the unique ability to innovate and improve how you make your food. We are passionate about making outstanding oils and work hard every day to make every batch better. When sourcing from abroad (organic coconut oil, organic olive oils, etc..), we work with like-minded family owned producers that share our values.
What are some of the creative ways La Tourangelle products have been used?
It is our privilege to see our products used in the America’s greatest kitchen including Air Force One. But I still remember having a pistachio oil cocktail that blew my mind!
How are you involved in the local community?
Our goal is to promote good food in schools. We are starting a partnership with a local farm to fork program designed to help create edible gardens in school. With our company growing we hope to have a greater impact in our local community.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud to have created 55 full-time jobs in America and to see this amazing team bring life to La Tourangelle every day. I’m proud to bring good oils to supermarkets all over the country while promoting values that are positive. For me this is true success: creating a sustainable business that is financially successful while having a positive impact on all our stakeholders: suppliers, employees, consumers, etc…
What’s a day at La Tourangelle like?
It starts with me being a lucky father waking up my son and my daughter. This usually comes with jokes and laughter! I cook breakfast and lunch for them and my dear wife. After dropping them at school, I usually spend a couple hours working with Europe. When I’m not travelling, I have my main office in the Berkeley marina. It is very inspirational. As a CEO, I get to work in sales, finance, marketing, production, quality, etc., …depending on what issue is at stake. I usually travel to Sacramento twice a week to spend time in our oil mill.
What’s next for La Tourangelle?
La Tourangelle is always working on bringing new oils to market: we are now working on releasing a unique line of oils for body care. We just came back from the Fancy Food in NYC where we won an award for our organic fair trade extra virgin coconut oil – I love this product! We also introduced a basil, garlic and herbs de Provence oils: they are infused with actual leaves and the result is simply incredible!
How can people get a hold of and order La Tourangelle products?
La Tourangelle oils are available for purchase across the country at over 10,000 national retail stores including Whole Foods, Safeway, Kroger, Bristol Farms, Sur La Table, Target and various leading specialty and natural foods retailers, as well as online at latourangelle.com
If you or someone you know is a vegetarian food artisan or specialty food creator and want to share your story on how and why you source locally and responsibly produce your products email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how you can be featured on Food With Thought.