Always elegant in tailor-made, stylish blazers or a casual outfit and limited-edition designer glasses, Savino Muraglia is a good example of the young, successful, self-confident Italian entrepreneur. And, running an expanding family business in his thirties, he surely is. He is a reserved person who does not like to be in the limelight. He loves to collect watches and spend time with his family and friends. He also is a country gentleman. After many years of studying and living in Northern Italy and abroad, where he worked as a financial specialist, he went back to his homeland to manage the opening of a bank in 2008. He decided to stay. “I found myself curious about the family farm, even though I’d never considered it as a career before. It was a dying business, only in operation for 60 days a year,” he told hiEurope just before leaving for a long business trip to China.
The Muraglia family has been growing and processing olives for five generations in Andria, a country village not far from Bari. The great-grand father, also called Savino, started it almost 150 ago when he bought the land where century-old olive trees of the local variety Coratina now grow along the ones planted by his descendants. The modern day Savino inherited both the passion for olive oil – a key resource for local economy, culture and food heritage – and stubbornness, a bit of a family trait, he admits. His father Vincenzo and uncle Francesco continued the family business. Yet times were changing and selling olive oil was not as profitable as it used to be. Muraglia decided to take a risk, convincing them to invest in order to increase production and improve quality. “Until 2012, I kept working both jobs, both in finance and setting up a retail network for Muraglia extra virgin olive oil. For the first time we bottled and labelled it as our own brand”. Muraglia also invested in marketing to create a brand image. “When I first attended the San Francisco Fancy Food fair,” he recalls, “I realized olive oil brands used similar bottles and labels. I told my father: ‘If we want to stand out, we have to find something different.’”
So he asked local craftsmen to re-create the typical handmade jars, beautifully decorated on the outside with bright colours and inventive patterns, yet specially treated on the inside to preserve the extra virgin olive oil. Today, the unique Muraglia pottery is proudly displayed in homes as well as Michelin-star restaurants all over the world, showcasing Italian taste and style. “We have different design collections which change every three seasons, except for the popular rainbow and the polka-dotted lines. Competitors imitate us and so we try to indulge our clients even from an aesthetic point of view,” Muraglia says. Everything at Muraglia is well-finished, from the packaging boxes to the stylish offices’ decor. “I’m a devotee of beauty in all its forms,” he admits. “I love bringing around the typical Italian taste and our sense of beauty. To me this is not an idle issue but a real value.” Innovation at Muraglia is not only visual. While Vincenzo and Francesco are still in charge of the growing and pressing processes with their precious experience, Muraglia develops new products: pitted extra virgin olive oil, oils scented with lemons, ginger, chilly or celery and the intriguing Fumo, a naturally smoked oil which gives dishes an exquisite smoky flavour. And there are the side collections with the rainbow design: tableware, tablecloths and the cute bonsai olive trees in coloured ceramic vases.
In the end, Muraglia ’s stubbornness proved to be successful. Today, the farm counts 10 employees and it’s open all year round. “But in ten years, I want to start something new!” he says. And you'd probably better believe him.
Antico Frantoio Muraglia