There is a raging battle going on in Andalusia, Spain. The olive mills are fighting for awards at international fairs and everybody is going for SPECTACULAR! The Olive Oil Times, a very good source for industry information, lists many articles about competitions and awards, and which bottles were selected at the most recent contest.
But with all the money and effort spent, I think the marketing campaigns of the olive mills and multi-national companies may be missing the boat regarding the interests of the ordinary consumer of olive oil in the United States. There are six reasons I believe this.
- Prize winners are expensive by design Many if not most of the households in the US do not budget a large amount of money for olive oil purchase. In many cases, the price tags of the prize winning oils cost an arm and a leg, or a pound of flesh – just plain too expensive.
- Olive Oil is NOT a decoration: Extra virgin olive oil is made to be used and enjoyed on food, not to be stored in a pretty bottle on the top shelf as a decorative item. Liberal use of extra virgin olive oil provides the most satisfaction. I believe that the prices paid for the current “prize winning bottles” discourage the actual use
- Harvest conditions change each year: Winning one prize does not mean that each year the quality of olive oil will be the same. Harvest conditions change each season which impacts the quality of the fruit (olives).
- Purchase agreements and trade flows change each year: Many of the Italian producers buy Spanish extra virgin olive oil and then bottle it under their own brand, and sell it as “Italian”. This is legal and standard operating tactics in Europe. This also happens within Spain, so a bottle produced in Madrid may contain olive oil from a number of different Andalusian Fincas. With changes in demand, supply, prices and negotiations, it is conceivable that the olive oils are from different sources each year, for many of the “prize winning bottles”.
- 1 bottle, 1 time: Each olive mill or producer can select the very best olives to make their “prize winning bottle”, but that does not mean that each of the bottles shipped a year after will contain the same quality of oil.
- Who chooses the winners?: I believe there is a certain amount of politics and maybe even corruption involved in these sorts of contests. And why wouldn’t there be? The olive oil industry does not have a sterling reputation. In the end, it comes down to choices by a selection of judges or “catadors” and it may well be that in one way or another, some palms are waxed in the process.
So, I think it is misleading the consumer to sell the idea of a “prize winner” being the best olive oil in the world. No doubt it would be a a very fine olive oil, but best in the world? Maybe for about 1 hour?
Instead, I think the daily consumers in Spain have a better strategy for ensuring the quality of their daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil. Simply put, … they go local or buy from a trusted source. Usually, they buy olive oils from local sources. Most pueblos in Andalusia have a local olive mill where unfiltered and filtered extra virgin olive oil is available. Spaniards are loyal consumers. Once they find a cafe/restaurant or a source of good quality jamon (ham), queso (cheese) or olive oil, they remain loyal. They return to what they know is good. They ask questions and learn to trust the quality. They become vocal and loyal supporters. Living close to the source or learning about the source leads to trust in the over-all, year after year quality.
I believe that knowing and trusting the source is the best method of selecting a top quality extra virgin olive oil. You can go with the flavor of the month, or the current “winner”, but I really think the best strategy in the long run is to find a trusted source that provides quality and value.
Over the past two months, GringoCool (TM) has been following this train of thought and now GringoCool is very close to bringing to the US market a top quality, organic, extra virgin olive oil. Holding to the environmental principle of leaving behind as small of a footprint as possible, the packaging is simple cardboard, the bottles are simple colored glass and the labeling is on craft paper. The idea is to provide a top quality olive oil and make as low an impact on the environment as possible in the production and shipping of the product. The olive oil will be sold in 1 or 2 unit boxes and available for shipping to the home. The organic, extra virgin olive oil will be available online at www.gringocool.com and will ship within 2 businesses days of a purchase (usually 1 day )
GringoCool is serious about quality and value, and will endeavor to win the trust of each and every customer. Keep your eyes peeled for Cold Pressed Elixir, the name GringoCool has chosen for their top quality, organic, extra virgin olive oil. It is coming soon!
Thanks for reading. Questions or comments are always welcome.