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Kernoel (pumpkin seed oil) in America

June 3, 2013

Christa and John Paul Cook receive Certificates of Recognition

For the past fifteen years, John Paul Cook and his mother Christa have pioneered the introduction of this Steirisch favorite in the United States. On May 16, 2013 Franz Roessler, Austrian Trade Commissioner in Chicago, and Klaus Hofstadler, Deputy Trade Commissioner in Washington DC presented John Paul and Christa with official Certificates of Recognition for their many years of service in the promotion of natural products from Austria.

John Paul, a US Army Reserve Transportation Officer with an entrepreneurial spirit, identified the opportunity to fill a market niche while he was stationed in Austria during the mid 1990’s. During a personal excursion with a colleague to the Pluckenpass in Carinthia, he had the opportunity to spend some time with his colleague’s family home in the Steiermark. The evening meal was a wonderful buffet of farm fresh specialties high-lighted by pumpkin seeds and seed oil. One taste, and he was hooked! For the rest of his assignment, John Paul sought every opportunity to savor the flavors of the Austrian countryside. At a farewell Jause with friends on his last evening in Vienna, John Paul commented on how he was going to miss the delicious delicacies of the farmers’ markets and that it was “too bad we don’t have anything like this in the States”.

In his civilian capacity, John Paul represented Solingen, German kitchenware manufacturers to specialty shops in the US. Shortly after returning to his company, John Paul visited the International Fancy Food Show in New York and met a representative from SteirerKraft. Amazed that an American not only knew kernoel, but actually got excited, it was clear they would have to do business together! The collaboration seemed a natural fit and John Paul together with his mother created the Austria’s Finest, Naturally brand. By 2001, they had a solid foothold in the American market and expanded the line to not only offer kernoel, but also vinegar, juice, jelly and honey to a broad spectrum of customers in the natural and gourmet sectors as well directly to consumers through their website. Austria’s Finest, Naturally quickly gained a reputation among Epicureans and Naturopathy enthusiasts seeking great tasting additions to their pantry.

To promote their premium line, the Cook family engaged in a holistic campaign promoting their producers’ responsible farming practices and the overall purity of Austrian agriculture. The picturesque farms and villages of the Steiermark and the generally traditional culture of their farmers romanticized the products prompting not only increased sales, but also interest in Austria as a vacation destination.

September 11, 2001 changed life for everyone. By the summer of 2003 it was clear that the conflict initiated by the terror attacks would be a protracted and it would only be a matter of time before John Paul would be recalled to active duty. Fortunately John Paul was assigned close to home at the Pentagon where he remains assigned today.
Christa and her husband John assumed the daily operations of the business and despite the economic ebbs and flows, and other challenges sustained the business through the first decade of the 21st century. Although compounding challenges prompted the Cook family to reluctantly close the import and fulfillment aspects of the business at the end of 2012, they still provide consultation services on kernol and other specialties.