What's New is Old Again: The Deep Roots of Today's Olive Oil Trends

What might seem like current trends in the olive oil business aren't so novel at all -- just the latest continuations of stories that began long ago.

Jan. 12, 2017
By Olive Oil Times Staff

Recent News

The olive oil busi­ness might seem at times tumul­tuous and ever-chang­ing — and it is, with ener­getic up-and-com­ing pro­duc­ers, indus­try infight­ing over mar­ket share and the uproar over less-than-stan­dard prod­ucts.

But olive oil has been around a very long time, of course, and many of the things we see hap­pen­ing these days in the cat­e­gory turn out to be not so new at all.

Looking back through the archives of the New York Times, the Associated Press and other sources, what might seem like cur­rent trends are just the lat­est con­tin­u­a­tions of sto­ries that began long ago.

We just thought we’d share some of the more inter­est­ing snip­pets we came across flip­ping through the last 100 years, or so, of olive oil’s ancient his­tory.

(Some sources require logins to view the orig­i­nal arti­cle.)

August 21, 1891

California Producers Band Together

The convention of olive oil producers, recently assembled (in San Francisco) took a decided stand for pure, home-made olive oil. The convention has now established the very conditions of success — concerted action securing a perfect guarantee of the purity of olive oil produced in San Francisco.”

Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel

February 17, 1912

Cal. Growers Denounce Proposed Tariff Reduction

A proposal to reduce the tariff on olive oil threatens the annihilation of the olive oil industry in California. Don’t permit this infant industry to be strangled as it has never had adequate protection.’ The Olive Growers’ Association of Los Angeles said. If the tariff is reduced, it will compel us to discontinue raising olives.’ ”

NY Times

April 14, 1914

Italy Ships More than it Makes

The consul says it would seem that more oil is being sent to the United States as Lucca or Tuscan olive oil than the district produces for export.”

NY Times

November 25, 1918

Unscrupulous Dealers

Very little olive oil is now being imported and the domestic olive oil is not sufficient to supply the demand. The abnormally high price of genuine olive oil has tempted unscrupulous dealers to mix cheaper vegetable oils with a little genuine olive oil and to sell the mixture labeled as olive oil.”

NY Times

August 27, 1919

*Not* Made in Italy

Shipments of olive oil labeled as having been produced in Italy, but which, in fact, was produced in Spain, have been seized in San Francisco.”

USDA Weekly Newsletter

April 23, 1922

Better than Bootlegging

There is more profit in adulterating olive oil than bootlegging, said the health commissioner. 17 percent of the samples taken last year were adulterated.”

NY Times

July 15, 1930

40 Percent of California Olive Oils are Substandard

In 1930, the Maryland-based olive oil importer Pompeian Corporation carried out its own study that revealed, So-called California virgin olive oils” were not from the first pressing. Over 40 percent of the so-called pure, un-adulterated virgin olive oils are falsely labeled — containing from 25 to 100 percent refined oil,” the company said. (Guess you could call the 2011 Davis report, 81 years later, delayed payback.)

Industrial and Engineering Chemistry

Mulberry Street, New York 1905

July 22, 1930

Extra Virgin Motor Oil

Manuel Pinol, a member of the Seville municipal council, motored today from that city to Madrid using olive oil as the only lubricant of his car. The experimenter said he consumed one liter of the oil with excellent results. Olive producers have asked the government to support experiments which they hope will result in extensive use of olive oil for lubrication as a measure toward solving the problem of olive over-production.”

NY Times

June 2, 1934

Olive Oil Chemists Form Group

Organization of an international committee of olive oil chemists, which will seek to develop standard methods for the analysis of olive oil was announced here yesterday by W.H. Dickhart, chairman. Included are chemists connected with the olive oil industry in Spain, France and Italy. The committee will try to develop new methods for determining the purity of olive oil.”

NY Times

June 3, 1936

No Soap for You

The Senate Today adopted an amendment to eliminate the proposed tax on olive oil. Senator Moore said the tax would destroy soap manufacturing operations that use olive oil.”

NY Times

August 2, 1937

Olive Oil Group Revived

Rising world prices, due to the civil war in Spain, have added a new incentive to the adulteration of olive oil by unscrupulous importers and have prompted revival of the Olive Oil Association.”

Reading (PA) Times

February 4, 1941

Italian Production Below Average

Italy’s olive oil crop is below average this critical year. World production is estimated at 7.5 million quintals (827,000 tons).”


NY Times

May 25, 1941

California Rising

California has been producing olive oil for twenty years but never better quality or more quantity than this year. The increased demand has brought a rise in prices for domestic oils too and many growers who formerly packed their choicest Mission and Manzanilla olives are now using them to manufacture oil. This year, 900,000 gallons of olive oil were pressed out in California.”

NY Times

May 13, 1942

Nazi Lubricant

German engines of war are lubricated with olive oil, indicating that the Nazis are running low on vital raw materials, Eugene Varga, the Soviet’s foremost economist, said in today’s edition of the Communist party newspaper Pravda.”

The Daily Pantagraph

May 23, 1943

Olive Oil from Peanuts

Olive Oil from peanuts has been produced successfully at the Southern regional research laboratory of the USDA. Both are wartime substitutes, but will probably carry over into peace for uses where they are either superior or cheaper.”

NY Times

January 27, 1956

Brooklyn Man Fined $4,000 for Misbranding’

Joseph Profaci, a Brooklyn olive oil distributor, was fined $4,000 yesterday in federal Court, Brooklyn, for misbranding his product. Two companies that Profaci formerly headed, the Mamma Mia Importing Company, Inc., and the Santuzzo Oil Company, Inc., also were fined a total of $4,000.”

NY Times

July 18, 1959

Tunisia the World’s Largest Olive Oil Exporter

Tunisia has emerged during the last three years as the world’s largest exporter of olive oil, and the 1959 season produced a harvest that set a new peak at 135,000 tons.”

NY Times

April 16, 1989

Light Olive Oil: Product of New Jersey

Light olive oil was invented by the Bertolli company in this office in Secaucus, N.J.,” said William C. Monroe, president of Bertolli USA. It’s an American invention.”

NY Times

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