California Olive Ranch is big. They have at least 13,000 acres of olives in Northern California and have been aggressively marketing their bottles as reasonably priced local olive oil. It seems to have been successful, visit markets of a certain ilk and you’ll see their bottles. But this weekend I noticed that they’re no longer Californian. Despite the company name which receives the major presentation on the label.
They’re now blending oil from other countries like Argentina, Chile, and Portugal. Apart from the bit of flattery at being on the same pedestal as three countries, the contrast between brand name and identity, and the actual content of the bottle is pretty dramatic. I had no idea, everyone at dinner had no idea, we’re just lambs to the slaughter in this marketing hustle.
A bit of research reveals that this has been going on for at least a year and that the company is trying to bake it into their branding without exactly trumpeting the difference. Aside from the marketing issues here – clearly most people aren’t reading the fine print and believe that they’re getting something purely Californian and possibly paying a premium for that impression – the change points up bigger issues like climate change.