The results of a taste test carried out this month by the British based product-testing magazine ‘Which?’ suggested that consumers may not necessarily need to reach for the most expensive bottle when searching for high quality olive oil.

The test was carried out by a panel of three olive oil experts who sampled 12 different extra virgin oils from big name brands such as Filippo Berio as well as less known oils from leading British High Street supermarkets. Only one of the judges names was mentioned, a long-time U.K. olive oil importer Charles Carey.

uk-consumer-guide-reviews-supermarket-olive-oilsThe Italian oil producer ‘Napolina’ ranked highest on the judges’ final results and proved to be more popular than leading brands Bertolli and Filippo Berio. Napolina’s victory was surprising, the magazine said, because they won with their ‘Standard Variety’ which was awarded 67%, trumping the brand’s ‘Special Selection’ which judges considered to be an inferior oil despite carrying a price tag at least 2 pounds higher.

Which? said: “The label on the Napolina Special Selection oil, which costs £5.69 for a 500ml bottle, says it is made from the highest quality olives. But our experts preferred Napolina’s standard extra virgin olive oil, which cost £3.79 for 500ml. Not only did the cheaper Napolina oil beat its big brother, it came top of our test overall…”

While Napolina came out on top, oils from big ‘quality’ High Street brands like Tescos, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer failed to impress the judges. The report stated:

“Our expert panel was not impressed with the olive oils from Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Tesco’s oil was too bitter, with one expert identifying flavors that were “dusty” and ‘like a mouldy piece of bread’.”

One judge was even said to have commented that when sampling the extra virgin olive oil from Marks & Spencer, distinct “farmyard flavors” could be detected.

Aldi had one of the cheapest oils on the list at £2.25 per 750ml but despite its low price, the panel of experts judged it to be one of the highest quality oils. They ranked it in 2nd place with a score of 60% and described the taste as being ‘clean, light and delicate’. This was second time that Aldi had been so favorably ranked in a Which? taste test.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, consumption of olive oil in the U.K. has increased steadily over the past 20 years. Recent reports show that half of homes now use it, compared with 35 percent in 2001. Brits consume 28 million liters a year and annual sales are at record levels of around £150 million a year.

The Which? Magazine Olive Oil Rankings 2011

1. Napolina (Standard) £3.79 67%
2. Aldi Evoo £2.25* 60%
3. Bertolli Originale £3.69 58%
4. Morrisons £1.84 56%
5. C0-operative £2.29 56%
6. Asda £1.84 52%
7. Filippo Berio £2.98 51%
8. Lidl Primadonna £2.25* 48%
9. Waitrose £2.48 45%
10. Sainsbury’s £1.99 45%
11. Marks & Spencer £2.79 41%
12. Tesco £1.84 38%

*750ml. All other prices are for 500ml.

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