My husband and I love the exquisite taste of a fine extra virgin olive oil. From our perspective, it makes all the difference in a salad or dribbled on roasted vegetables or bread.
Unfortunately, we have decided to suspend the sale of our two European extra virgin olive oils: an authentic Tuscan blend from the foothills south of Florence in Italy and, an award-winning Arbequina from Penedes, Spain.
Frankly, we simply do not generate sufficient sales for these premium EVOO’s to justify our continued investment in these products. More to the point, most U.S. consumers appear unwilling to pay a premium price for authentic extra virgin olive oil. The reason for the wide variation is that most of the EVOO sold in the United States is fraudulently labeled.
The market is saturated with mislabeled and fraudulent olive oil. Consumers are justifiably rejecting higher priced brands because they no longer have any confidence in product claims. I was recently surprised by the candid remarks of Pierluigi Tosato, the Executive Chairman of the largest olive oil producer, Deoleo S.A.:
Consumption is falling because consumers have a lack of confidence and they don’t trust anything.
Consumers are moving away from olive oil. We will have an excess in production in the next years. The demand is not going the way it should go.
These were not casual remarks, Mr. Tosato was addressing the 50 or so attendees of a conference near Chicago organized by the North American Olive Oil Association. In fact, he acknowledged that “Olive oil is a broken business model. We need to change it.”
Indeed, statistics from a variety of sources confirm Mr. Tosato’s stark assessment of the olive oil industry:
$50: Approximate cost to make a gallon of real EVOO
$7: Approximate cost to make fake EVOO
80%: One estimate for how much of US EVOO isn’t actually extra virgin
Against these olive oil statistics provided by Quartz which generally reflect the state of the industry as described by Mr. Tosato, it is no wonder that American consumers are not willing to pay a premium price for a product that is probably fraudulent.
Against this dismal assessment of the industry outlook, we have decided to pull our two European brands and concentrate instead on developing California brands. The regulatory environment is far stricter in California and we hope to launch two new organic California EVOOs early in 2019 (2018 harvest). Needless to say, we will continue to sell our delicious California Picual which continues to be popular among consumers.
For those interested in a few tips on how to find the “best” olive oil, please see the video below:
Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed to pull these great products, but it is time to acknowledge that it is an uphill battle to protect small ethical producers against the onslaught of false advertising.
An authentic extra virgin olive oil made from skilled artisans in Europe remains a delight. If you have found a brand that inspires confidence, please carry-on. For those still on the fence, please consult these recent blog posts:
Is olive oil better than butter on scrambled eggs