[caption id="attachment_22075" align="alignright" width="288" caption="California Rice Oil moves into 2485 Courage Drive in Fairfield this week."][/caption]
FAIRFIELD – Small-staff, high-volume importer California Rice Oil Co. leaves Novato today for Fairfield.
Rising demand for additive-free cooking oil necessitated the move to larger warehouse and office quarters in Solano County, according to partner and CFO David Davenport.
"We needed at least 5,500 square feet with room to expand and a loading dock," he said. "There was no chance of finding that in Marin County.
The statewide ban on trans fats is fueling the growth of the 9-year-old company, which segued from selling rice bran feed to Marin horse ranches to the retail market for cooking oil to the largely wholesale operation it is today.
Rice bran oil, imported by the company from Thailand, has a smoking point exceeded only by rare and expensive avocado oil. In addition to being a great frying medium, California Rice Oil is GMO-free, unlike its only competition in the U.S.
High-end restaurants are adopting the product, but a greater volume is going to corporations such as Google, Apple and Lucasfilm, which make a point of providing healthy food to their employees.
University food services are another growing market segment.
"Where you have trained nutritionists putting together the food programs you'll find demand for our oil," said Mr. Davenport. "It's clearly the healthiest choice, if not the least expensive."
California Rice Oil's revenues, at about $8 million, took a hit from the recession, he said, when its restaurant customers temporarily switched to lower-cost products.
"But it's turning around now. I don't quite know why, but orders from restaurants are getting much stronger. People are eating out again, I guess."
He, his wife, Ellen, and partners Teresa and Kirk Scarborough have exclusive distribution rights in the U.S. for the Thai manufacturer.
This year California became the first state to enforce a ban on artery-clogging trans fats in restaurants. Baked goods containing trans fats will be banned in California as of 2011.
The city of New York enacted a restaurant ban four years ago. Texas legislators are currently working to enact one, and Oregon and Washington are considering bans.
With large new geographical markets opening up, the partners saw a need to centralize their supply hub. The product comes by boat into Los Angeles and Oakland, where the company has warehouses and contract packagers to break it down into drums and smaller containers.
"Shipping is expensive," said Ms. Davenport. "The recent fuel crisis was very painful."
California Rice Oil will save costs by locating on a major interstate highway.
The new site, at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highway 12, is adjacent to the Anheuser Busch Brewery, Jelly Belly Candies and several food manufacturers.
The lease was arranged by Chris Petrini and Bret DeMartini of Grubb & Ellis and Chris Neeb of Cushman Wakefield.
For more information visit www.californiariceoil.com.