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Updated: April 4, 2022 / Manufacturing Excellence Awards 2022

Manufacturing awards: Catania Oils is more than a business; it’s family

Photo | Courtesy of Catania Oils The Basile family has run Catania Oils in Ayer for 122 years.

Beginning with humble roots, Catania Oils began when Italian immigrant Giuseppe Basile sold olive oil door-to-door in the early 1900s.

Fast forward 122 years later, Catania Oils in Ayer is now a fourth-generation business with $375 million in annual revenues and 175 employees.

The company remains firmly rooted in family tradition, which trickles down to the treatment of the company’s clients and employees who receive the same welcoming and caring attitude.

The inclusivity is shown not just in words, but in the company’s actions and events, said Stephen Basile, executive vice president of sales and marketing and fourth-generation business leader.

“I mean, one of our core values is ‘We are family,’ and when you look at a lot of the things that we do throughout the year, it speaks exactly to that,” Basile said.

Every child born into the Basile family is baptized with olive oil while all of the oil holding tanks are named after family members or longtime employees. The company focuses on the employees by providing take-home meals, giving away roasts during Christmas, having a company Thanksgiving event, and offering training programs.

“Obviously, your employees are your most valuable asset. If you can continue to invest in them, then they're going in turn pay you back by some of the new things that they've learned, you know, changing processes coming to us with great ideas, always just trying to extract the ideas out of them, because they're the ones doing the job on a daily basis,” Basile said.

To say that Catania Oils is just a supplier would be an understatement. Its oils are found in a variety of New England food favorites such as Cape Cod Chips, Ocean Spray cranberry products, Ken’s Salad Dressing, Gorton’s Seafood, and Stacy’s Pita Chips, just to name a few of their dozens of clients.

Starting with olive oil, throughout the generations Catania Oils has expanded to more than 25 types of oils, including vegetable, canola, almond, avocado, palm, organic, and shea butter. In addition to the main oils they offer, Catania creates unique blends of oils to suit the flavor profiles and burn rates needed by their clients. The Catania Oils lab is experimenting with new flavors and new applications for oils found all around the globe.

The pandemic impacted every market, but for Catania, its family-run model helped the company stay afloat in the midst of chaos, as it was all hands on deck in the Basile family. During the peak of the pandemic Stephen’s brother, Joe, who serves as president of Catania, was even on the factory floor hooking up rail cars, loading trucks, and trying to get products out to clients while waiting for employees to be able to return and for everything to normalize.

“But we never really got back to normal, and we’re just like everybody else because of labor issues and supply chain issues. However, the way in which we're able to communicate within our organization and then externally to our customers has really allowed us to stay in front of it,” Basile said.

After more than a century in business, Catania has overcome numerous challenges. As the company navigates the aftermath of the pandemic, Catania is looking forward to a 50,000-square-foot expansion in July, which will further boost the oil producer’s capacity.

Most family-run companies have trouble passing the baton to the third generation, but the Basile family is dedicated to upholding the family legacy while pioneering new technologies and uses for flavorful oils.

“First and foremost, I just hope we don't screw it up. All joking aside, we do talk about that quite, quite a bit. Our great grandfather came to this country where he started selling house to house, and times were really tough. Same thing with my grandfather, he started selling house to house, and every generation has been able to take the business a step further and a step further. And now the fourth generation’s job is to do the same. And we continue to talk about ways in which we can improve the business,” Basile said.

2022 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

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