Lambda, the high-design olive oil with the sticker shock price tag and its supplier, the award-winning Kritsa Cooperative on Crete have parted ways, a source at the cooperative told Olive Oil Times. Business disagreements were cited as the cause of the split.
Lambda was started by Giorgos Kolliopoulos who developed the concept of the “ultra premium” olive oil in 2007 through his luxury food and beverage company, Speiron based in Athens.
In an interview earlier this year, Kolliopoulos said “From my extensive research, knowledge and just my love of olive oil, I found growers in Kritsa doing an amazing job among some of the oldest olive trees in all of Greece. There the acidity is constantly low. Plus Lambda is produced with extra control measures. Only a certain amount can be produced yearly.”
The modern themed packaging and optional personalization earned the brand coverage in design magazines and on the shelves of luxury gift shops. But that publicity seems to not have been enough to move the public to buy the olive oil, and sales only amounted to about 800 liters last year according to the cooperative, which produces an average of around 500,000 liters annually.
At $185 per liter, Lambda alone occupied the top price point for extra virgin olive oil. Yet the olive oil to fill Lambda bottles was straight from Kritsa’s normal production, say officials at the cooperative — the same oil for which the coop’s farmers were paid 2.70 Euros (US$ 3.57) last year. That means Lambda’s retail price was nearly 52 times what was paid to the producer of the oil.
The 1,000-member Kritsa Cooperative is a perennial award-winner, managing to achieve consistently high quality due to its ideal microclimate and quick processing, among other advantages. It was the top winner of the 2008 Mario Solinas Award for the medium-fruity category, for example.
At a time when world olive oil prices have hit historic lows, and consumers are more concerned with intrinsic value than packaging design and status symbols, the response to Lambda, and other concept olive oils, could be less than marketers hope for.