N. America

'Crafted in California' Makes its Debut

Prompted by the scarcity and cost of local fruit, California Olive Ranch unveiled a new range of imported blends.

Nov. 20, 2018
By Curtis Cord

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Maybe the New World isn’t so new after all.

Since, oh, the begin­ning of time, any olive oil that ever-so-briefly may have brushed the blessed shores of Italy were embla­zoned with the myth­i­cal Made in Italy dis­tinc­tion and set forth unto the world to com­mand much higher prices than oils that admit­ted where they were really from.

The public’s demand for trans­parency and authen­tic prod­ucts and efforts by eth­i­cal pro­duc­ers led to national cam­paigns that sought to restore the Made in Italy” brand and reserve its exclu­sive use for oils that were, well, made in Italy.

In fact, it was the pub­lic sham­ing of those old shenani­gans and other unseemly prac­tices that helped give rise to the value of home­grown oils from places like Aus­tralia, South Africa, Argentina and Cal­i­for­nia.

Now, in a move straight out of the old Ital­ian play­book, the largest Amer­i­can olive oil pro­ducer has announced a new Crafted in Cal­i­for­nia” range of imported oil blends.

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Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch (COR) explains on its web­site:

It’s no secret that farm­ing is a dif­fi­cult busi­ness and grow­ing olives is not with­out its chal­lenges. This year, we, along with farm­ers of all kinds of crops through­out Cal­i­for­nia, were hit with a freeze dur­ing our bloom sea­son. This dras­ti­cally reduced the size of our crop, com­pro­mis­ing our abil­ity to make good on our promise of pro­vid­ing Amer­i­cans with high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil at a rea­son­able price.”

In other words, California’s lead­ing olive oil com­pany can’t feed its thriv­ing sales chan­nels with a lim­ited sup­ply of Cal­i­for­nia fruit that’s com­mand­ing ever-higher prices.

The real­ity of the mat­ter, of course, is that Amer­i­can con­sumers who have been led by cam­paigns fueled by COR and oth­ers to devalue imported oils will not take the time to check the ori­gins of the new Des­ti­na­tions” range.

See more: Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Olive Oil Time Warp

The front label points out that the prod­uct is Grown Glob­ally, Crafted in Cal­i­for­nia” which is rem­i­nis­cent of the Designed by Apple in Cal­i­for­nia” that bil­lions of us have seen on the devices in our hands (COR’s CEO, Gregg Kel­ley, is a sil­i­con-val­ley vet­eran). The com­pany pre­dictably omits imported” — the buzz­word of the pub­lic-rela­tions bash­ing COR helped finance.

In the recent past, we saw coun­try codes in small print on the back label,” Kel­ley told Olive Oil Times when asked about the new range. Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch wants to change that, and we’re proudly shar­ing the care­fully selected global part­ners who grow, har­vest and mill with the same pas­sion and focus on qual­ity as we do.”

But it would be inter­est­ing to ask ten peo­ple who pur­chased a bot­tle from the new range, Did you know the oil you just bought is from Argentina, Por­tu­gal and Spain?”

More likely, just as the iconic Ital­ian scenes that adorn the bot­tles of oils from Tunisia, Spain, Morocco and Greece, COR’s famil­iar rancher logo with the all-caps CALIFORNIA will be all that is needed to close the deal.

Great olive oil comes from Cal­i­for­nia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Por­tu­gal, Argentina and dozens of other coun­tries in the world. Blur­ring the nation­al­is­tic lines and focus­ing instead on qual­ity can be con­struc­tive. But COR and its domes­tic part­ners came into this fight swing­ing, through coor­di­nated efforts to debase the opaque prac­tices of their imported rivals, includ­ing one prac­tice it now seems to have adopted.

After a par­tic­u­larly bad sea­son, COR is hop­ing to sell a lot of imported olive oil under its all-caps Cal­i­for­nia” head­ing and Amer­i­can con­sumers, trained by now to reach for local prod­ucts, likely won’t notice a thing.

We are cur­rently fac­ing a crop dis­as­ter that will impact every Cal­i­for­nia olive oil pro­ducer across the board,” Kel­ley said. Our mis­sion is to remain hon­est and trans­par­ent with Amer­i­can con­sumers on the state of the Cal­i­for­nia crop.”

Which is to say, get used to imported oils fly­ing the Cal­i­for­nia flag.


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