Peut-être que le Nouveau Monde n'est pas si nouveau après tout.

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.

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.

Voir plus: 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.

La grande huile d'olive provient de Californie, d'Espagne, d'Italie, de Grèce, du Portugal, d'Argentine et 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.

Après un 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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