Graza Co-Founder Andrew Benin Is on A Roll

Already in 3,000 stores across the U.S., the upstart Graza has momentum rarely seen in a notoriously crowded and challenging marketplace.
Andrew Benin (Photo: Graza)
By Curtis Cord
Jul. 12, 2023 16:14 UTC

Maybe to make it big as an upstart in the olive oil busi­ness these days, one would need mil­lions in fund­ing, a six-fig­ure con­tract with an edgy brand­ing agency, ground­break­ing pack­ag­ing with hip­ster graph­ics, and to be a dar­ling of the media.

In just eigh­teen months, the founders behind the Brooklyn-based olive oil brand Graza have all that and more, work­ing their green squeeze bot­tles to a store near you and 3,000 other U.S. retail points to com­pli­ment their thriv­ing sub­scrip­tion ser­vice.

Like so many other sto­ries new olive oil importers tell, there was the epiphany: And you’re in the small vil­lages in Spain, and even before I got to Jaén, and I’m try­ing recently pressed unfil­tered co-op oil where peo­ple are com­ing and walk­ing with five-liter jugs,” Graza co-founder Andrew Benin said of his drive through Andalusia three years ago. And, you know, I’m in the mid­dle of it and I’m think­ing, man, I could sell this stuff. It’s amaz­ing.”

Benin was liv­ing in Cádiz with his in-laws when he said he was inspired to pur­vey the most amaz­ing oils.” He brought a selec­tion of his finds to his friend, Michael Anthony, the exec­u­tive chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York. Anthony sug­gested Benin avoid the high end of the mar­ket.

“[Anthony] was like, well, we def­i­nitely don’t need another one of those peo­ple in the world. There are plenty of them, there are plenty of them in this zip code. We don’t need another per­son sling­ing truf­fles and oil and jamón, and we need good olive oil for every­one.’”

Benin decided to go with a Picual mono­va­ri­etal. It does­n’t hold back when it comes to fla­vor and shame­lessly slaps you in the face each time you eat it,” he said, eschew­ing the con­ven­tional descrip­tors a trained taster might use. In Picual there’s some­thing we just wanted to be involved in. And the story is sim­ple, or one vari­etal, every bot­tle is oil from one farm. So we work with a vari­ety of them, but we don’t mix them all together.”

(Listen to the full inter­view here)

It was also sen­si­ble for a brand with big ideas to go with the most ubiq­ui­tous olive cul­ti­var on earth in terms of sup­ply, pric­ing and scal­a­bil­ity. What Graza is doing is sell­ing what we think is a supe­rior qual­ity olive oil at a palat­able pre­mium is how we like to call it,” Benin explained. I did­n’t wanna sell one bot­tle of olive oil and then leave it up to fate. You know, I wanted to make a sys­tem that peo­ple can con­sume and con­tinue to pur­chase this qual­ity of olive oil and use it so habit­u­ally that it becomes a fix­ture in their lives.”

It’s unclear who had the idea to use squeeze bot­tles, but Benin said he pre­sented a pho­to­shopped mockup of a Dr. Bronner’s bot­tle with a sriracha cap to his brand­ing con­sul­tants, Gander. They came up with a deep green, matte-fin­ish bot­tle, paper label and bold graph­ics that stand out in the olive oil aisle. Benin said the com­pany invested in a cus­tom mold, and that his Spanish bot­tle man­u­fac­turer likes to call him with the names of other com­pa­nies who want access to the design.


We do get phone calls from our sup­pli­ers whose molds we own for our bot­tles, say­ing, Hey, there’s this Italian American com­pany that is try­ing to buy your mold. We are not sell­ing it to them, but hint, hint, this is who it is.’ And that’s what hap­pens when you are buy­ing mil­lions of bot­tles and not thou­sands. Your sup­ply chain sup­ports you also.”

While hav­ing the mold locked down might pro­vide some com­fort, Benin said he lost his cool last April when another trendy upstart, Brightland, debuted a pizza oil” in a (com­par­a­tively plain, low-bud­get) squeeze bot­tle. While friendly com­pe­ti­tion was always wel­come, I do view this as a bla­tant dis­re­spect and am choos­ing to voice my dis­con­tent,” he wrote on LinkedIn, “…I think it’s ok to get miffed when folks rip you off.”

The angry post went viral, even mak­ing the pages of major pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing the New York Times, where it was noted, Graza did not respond to requests for com­ment.” (When asked why an upstart founder would ignore an email from the New York Times, Benin explained, I was tak­ing calls at three, four, or five in the morn­ing with our PR team beg­ging me to stop. It was the right advice.”)

When reminded that the hype sur­round­ing his one-sided spat with Brightland amounted to more free pub­lic­ity, Benin admit­ted, we def­i­nitely have been a media dar­ling, and we do a good job of inno­vat­ing and push­ing the lim­its to keep things fresh.”

The Graza labels pro­vide the har­vest dates and cheeky yet edu­ca­tional serv­ing sug­ges­tions. The Drizzle” oil is billed as an early (December) har­vest best for dress­ing dishes, while the Sizzle” is from late-har­vested fruit and bet­ter for cook­ing. The labels explain the dif­fer­ent yields obtained at the two har­vest times: 24 lbs of olives = 1 liter of oil” for the late har­vest and 13 lbs of olives = 1 liter of oil” for the early har­vest, thereby explain­ing the bot­tle size and pric­ing.


Drizzle sells for $20 / 500ml, while the Sizzle is $15 for 750ml. The pric­ing places the brand in the mid­dle range – higher than the old-guard main­stays and lower than most of the extra vir­gin oils crafted by smaller pro­duc­ers. If I’m pay­ing 36, 37 bucks for a bot­tle of olive oil, it bet­ter knock every arti­cle of cloth­ing off my body, hon­estly,” Benin said. If I’m pay­ing that much for 375 ml, that should be a com­ing-to-God moment.”

Graza has momen­tum rarely seen in a noto­ri­ously crowded and chal­leng­ing mar­ket­place. The brand sports eye-catch­ing pack­ag­ing that social media can’t resist, one of the best cus­tom Shopify builds around, explo­sive DTC and whole­sale growth, and a reli­able sup­ply chain.

There are gnaw­ing feel­ings among olive oil cognoscenti that plas­tic is prob­lem­atic for olive oil stor­age and a late har­vest Picual stands lit­tle chance of stay­ing extra vir­gin for long, if it ever was. Yet Graza is reach­ing a lot of peo­ple with ener­getic mes­sages while show­ing how cool you can be for squirt­ing olive oil on your food.

Other brands are already com­ing out with look-alikes but with­out the pol­ished exe­cu­tion behind Graza’s pre­sen­ta­tion. Benin believes he has assem­bled a team and cul­ture that tran­scend the viral moments sur­round­ing the brand’s launch.

If other peo­ple are work­ing on squeeze bot­tles,” Benin said, then you know, some­one should be think­ing about what Graza is gonna do next, not what Graza has already done.”



Related Articles