British Olive Oil Brand Draws Mockery Over Comically Repetitive Labeling

A photo of an olive oil bottle being sold by the Co-operative Food is finding fame on social media. But thanks to its incomprehensible labeling, it's for all the wrong reasons.

May. 24, 2017
By Mary Hernandez

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A British con­sumer-owned food coop­er­a­tive called Co-op Food has drawn the atten­tion of con­sumers and plain lan­guage cam­paign­ers for its unique label­ing of its olive oil. 

The label, which repeats the words olive’ and oil’ eleven times in two short sen­tences of just 26 words, fea­tures no other infor­ma­tion other than the brand name and logo and con­fus­ingly describes the prod­uct con­tained as olive oil com­posed of refined olive oils and vir­gin olive oils. Oils com­pris­ing exclu­sively olive oils that have under­gone refin­ing and oils obtained directly from olives.” 

The label was first snapped by a Letchworth/Leicester res­i­dent Daniel Whitear, who uploaded a photo of the bot­tle to Twitter with this cheeky cap­tion: When you’re strug­gling to reach the word count whilst writ­ing an essay.” The tweet has since gar­nered 35,000 likes and 13,000 retweets. 

According to their web­site, Co-op Food is the UK’s fifth largest retailer with over 2,500 stores, which means that mil­lions of con­sumers might have come across the prod­uct and its con­fus­ing label while shopping. 

In response to ques­tions from Olive Oil Times, Co-op Food’s pub­lic rela­tions offi­cer Megan McGonigle stated that all retail­ers are oblig­ated to make this state­ment on olive oil prod­uct labels in order to adhere to the olive oil reg­u­la­tions. Unlike other retail­ers, Co-op olive oil includes this mes­sag­ing on the front label rather than the back, in order (to) make it clear to the customer.” 

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According to offi­cial guid­ance by the UK Government on olive oil label­ing, all olive oil prod­ucts must meet the label­ing, pack­ag­ing and seal­ing require­ments under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 29/2012 (as amended) and Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council. These reg­u­la­tions pri­mar­ily deal with ensur­ing the olive oil fea­tures the cor­rect pro­tected des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin, pro­tected geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion or geo­graph­i­cally ref­er­enced trade­mark so that the con­sumer is not mis­led regard­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the oil in question. 

According to these reg­u­la­tions, an olive oil prod­uct such as the one being mar­ket­ing by Co-op Food (in other words, a blend of refined and vir­gin olive oils and not pure extra vir­gin olive oil) only needs to state whether or not its olive oils are of European Union ori­gin and whether or not the olives were har­vested in a coun­try other than where the oil was produced. 

The reg­u­la­tions, how­ever, do state that label­ing can fea­ture images or graph­ics of olives where the olive oil blend being sold con­tains more than 50 per­cent pure olive oil (i.e not pomace oil or sun­flower oil). This is line with rec­om­men­da­tions made by a spokesper­son of the Plain English Campaign, a UK orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to cam­paign­ing against gob­bledy­gook, jar­gon and mis­lead­ing pub­lic infor­ma­tion,” which queried why Co-op Food didn’t go with olive imagery instead of its con­fus­ing repetition.

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