Food marketers are searching for new categories to reinvent. Is olive oil next for a fresh look?
New luxury olive oil brands are touting advanced techniques to achieve flavor and purity. California is becoming a hotbed of luxury olive oil, and adapting the techniques that fueled the success of its wine industry to olive oil production.
Gregory Kelley, founder of the California Olive Ranch, hopes to win international accolades for US olive oil, following in the footsteps of California wine, which was long viewed as inferior to European product.
London-based artisan oil brand By Evolve has launched Evolvia By Evolve, made using pure Portuguese olive oil, and presented in a slim and futuristic elixir-like cylinder made from laboratory glass that can be reused indefinitely. The lid, meanwhile, is made by British artisans. Olives are sourced in historic Portuguese vineyards, hand picked, and cold pressed, imbuing them with aromas of “florals, green apple, and wild herbs.”
Ila, a new boutique kitchen basics brand, has created a luxurious, hyper-minimal olive oil made in a century-old mill in Cordoba, Spain.
The New York International Olive Oil Competition this year introduced a food pairing app to identify the best match for culinary creations with award-winning oils.
The International Olive Council represents primarily Mediterranean producers of oil, which account for 98% of global output. But New World challengers are stepping up, launching a rival organization, the World Olive Oil Trade Group. “Members may include non-IOC countries as Australia, New Zealand, and the US,” said Bloomberg. It will also campaign for tougher quality controls on oil.
Scarcity could have something to do with the trend—the rising price of coffee beans helped drive the recent emphasis on new-wave coffee techniques. The price of olive oil purchased by shoppers in supermarkets across Western Europe increased by an average of 19.8% in 2015, according to recent analysis by retail analysts IRI.
This is attributed to bacterial disease in Italy affecting more than one million olive trees, as well as a poor harvest in Spain, Europe’s biggest olive producing country.
There’s also been a series of negative newspaper reports about claims made by Italian olive oil producers to be “extra virgin,” when in fact the olive oil was merely “virgin.” Consumers are more skeptical about “made in Italy” as a premium signifier label, as many brands bottle in Italy but source oil in other European countries, according to reports.
Bloomberg predicts olive oil will become a fast growing food staple in the US. The magazine notes that Americans still consume less than one-tenth of the olive oil that Italians do on average, while 60% never buy it at all. This suggests that in addition to the emerging luxury market for olive oil, there’s also plenty of room for growth at the mass-market level.
Next stop, West Village olive oil tasting bars…