Thursday, August 9, 2007

Olive Oil: The other vital oil

Big money, intrigue, fear & loathing and crime in the olive oil business

Having spent about 25 years in the specialty and natural foods industry I've had the opportunity to meet some interesting characters. Among some of the most interesting folks I've met are those who have been or are currently associated with the olive oil industry.

Over the past 20 years or so olive oil has gone from being a niche specialty oil used by a small number of American consumers to becoming a mainstream product today. One no longer has to be an olive oil affectionato to understand what such terms as pure olive oil and extra virgin mean. And thanks to TV's Rachael Ray the abbreviation EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is almost part of the average American's everyday lexicon.

At the upper end of the olive oil trade dwell the experts and affectionatos. This is where things like country (and even region) of origin are debated. Topics like the proper pressing of the olives, aging, storage and grading also are the daily details these olive oil industry experts love to labor over.

There's also big money in this oil industry. And just like the other oil industry--petroleum, the olive oil industry has it's share of intrigue, shady characters and out and out crime. These aspects--and much more--of the olive oil industry are revealed, discussed and elaborated on in a great article by Tom Mueller in the August 13, 2007 edition of the New Yorker.

This article ("Slippery Business: The trade in adulterated olive oil") not only will inform you about aspects of the olive oil business you currently don't know about, it's also a great read--interesting, provocative and well written. An excellent story.

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