Last year was a remarkable year in the olive oil industry--drought and disease created significant issues for producers throughout the mediterranean, but primarily in Italy. With supplies down and fraudulent oils up, many buyers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil moved away from Italian olive oils. One of the largest buyers in the world of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Costco Wholesale, announced last year that they were switching from an Italian source of EVOO to a Greek source. This was a huge development in the industry, which essentially acknowledged that Greek sources were more reliable than the Italian sources.
After about a year, Costco decided to switch back. In an article from industry publication Olive Oil Times, the reasons for this switch are implied, but we'll make it clear--sales and profitability. Despite professional olive oil buyers preferring the Greek oil, the decision to move back to the source was made because sales lagged and consumer feedback indicated a "perception" that Italian EVOO is the highest quality.
Excellent EVOO is made throughout the world, including many Italian oils. However, Italian oils in the United States have been consistently flagged as fraudulent, with the largest brands undergoing consumer lawsuits, including a recently certified class action suit. There's no doubt that Costco will go above and beyond to verify the authenticity of it's oil, but the troubling development is the decision to switch back because of a "perception".
We've always felt that one of our biggest roles as an Extra Virgin Olive Oil producer selling in the United States in education. Consumers in the US understand that quality EVOO makes a significant difference in taste and health benefits, but there are still misperceptions about what constitutes a quality oil. As we discussed in a blog post earlier this year about fraudulent olive oil, there are several ways to help identify authentic EVOO--you should be able to easily determine the source of the oil and the harvest date. If those two items are missing, obscured, or confusing, there's probably a reason. Good producers have nothing to hide, which is why we post our annual chemical analysis reports right here on our blog.
Perceptions about country of origin should be left behind as a determining factor in olive oil quality. The perceptions are artifacts of an era when consumers lacked access to information and have been perpetuated through misleading and fraudulent marketing. Hopefully, our little helps add a little information to fill the knowledge gap to eliminate the misperceptions. Feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or thoughts.