3 Deceptive Olive Oil Marketing LIES, Revisited

It’s been almost a year since I wrote the original article, which blew up on social media.

In that article I unveiled the lies that many North American olive oil importing companies tell their customers in order to make more money delivering inferior product.

Many of the myths and lies surrounding olive oil, particularly as they relate to storage and extraction, have been carefully designed to maximize profits from unsuspecting consumers unfamiliar with the inner workings of extra virgin olive oil production.

But this is not limited to merely the olive oil industry. Industrial seed and vegetable oil producers, such as soybean, corn and rapeseed producers also have an incentive to push a marketing narrative that benefits themselves at the expense of your health.

In this article, I will revisit the lies pedaled by North American cooking oil companies. It turns out that even mainstream scientists are beginning to agree with me; that is, real extra virgin olive oil is:

1) Robust to oxidation

2) Healthy (this was not always believed), and

3) Perfectly safe to cook with at high temperatures

These are views which have long been held unchallenged within indigenous European cultural groups along the Mediterranean for the past four thousand years and more.

So, what has changed? Why did we lose this intimate generational knowledge? Why have we forgotten that olive oil is in fact:

1) Teeming with healthy monounsaturated fats, including omega-9s and 3s, and oleic acid, antioxidant polyphenols such as oleocanthal, and vitamins E and K.

2) Not as sensitive to light and oxidation as many would have you believe, and

3) Safe to cook, bake and deep fry your sea bass and more

First of all, North America has never been an olive culture. Despite dramatic increases in olive oil production in California over the past twenty years, Californian production has yet to eclipse Croatia’s, which is still one of the world’s smallest producers.

Simply put, extraordinary profits are on the table and bad actors have taken advantage of information asymmetries between European and North American olive oil markets at mass scale.

Second, and more importantly perhaps, is that for the past 70 years, seed and vegetable oil production has been heavily subsidized at the federal level in the United States.

In 1961, the American Hearth Health Association went so far as to suggest that we should replace both our saturated fats (butter, ghee, etc.) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut, etc.) with “healthier” polyunsaturated fats such as corn, rapeseed, and soybean oil.

We now know this to be poor advice, given that higher ratios of omega 6 fatty acids found in polyunsaturated fats contribute to inflammation and a host of other chronic health conditions in people.

Lie #1: Olive Oil Is Full Of Artery-Clogging Unhealthy Fats

After the introduction of unparalleled federal Agribusiness subsidies, what followed has been a roughly 70 year increase in an unending list of physical ailments among Americans starting, ironically enough, with heart disease, as well as epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dementia, male infertility and more.


Since the 1960s, the United States has spent at least one trillion dollars on soybean and other seed and vegetable oil crops. It is extremely cheap to produce seed and vegetable oils relative to their revenue, and with major purchasers, such as those from China and other rapidly growing economies demanding increasingly larger quantities of cheap foodstuffs, there seems to be no end in sight to such subsidies.

These production incentives are clearly economic and Globalist in nature, and coincide perfectly with the rapid expansion of returns to capital relative to labor over the same time period. This is a matter of idealistic trickle-down economics causing trickle-down disease.

The elite are getting healthier, eating more heart-healthy fats and drinking more wine, while the poor, and the increasingly immiserated middle classes, are living off cheap polyunsaturated cooking oils and carbohydrates. This is something we see often in the cycles of history, typically preceding major socioeconomic class conflicts.

Olive oil, a robust, healthy source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, has simply been caught in the crossfires of Big Agribusiness, perhaps intentionally so, and particularly in what I and others have come to call the Seed Oils Mafia.

Lacking the local traditional knowledge extolling the benefits of extra virgin olive oil consumption that is rooted in Mediterranean cultures, olive oil has since been relegated to the trash bin of domestic cooking and finishing oils in North America.

Unfortunately, and unlike myself, very few Americans have a Babushka to tell them otherwise. I believe it is my duty now to relay her multi-generational inherited wisdom to you.

Extra virgin olive oil is a Gift from the Gods, and there is nothing some bureaucrat nor government scientist could ever tell me to convince me otherwise.

Lie #2: You Should Only Buy Olive Oil In Dark Bottles

Are all olive oils bought in dark or opaque bottles going to be rancid?

The short answer is no, but likely yes. I’m not going to outright claim that ALL extra virgin olive oil sold in dark or opaque bottles are fraudulent, but you’re better off avoiding them since you can’t know for sure if they have something to hide.

In many cases, modern olive oil companies have simply picked up on a bad trend. We shouldn’t punish them forever, but they really ought to wise up soon.

Unlike olive oil, seed and vegetable oils contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fats which are known to be extremely sensitive to photo-oxidation; this is simply not true for extra virgin olive oil, which is robust to the oxidative changes induced by exposure to light and air, and for very long periods of time (typically 2-3 years).

Ideally, you want to aim to consume olive oil that is farm fresh, that which is pressed 3-6 months after the harvest date. A premium extra virgin olive oil, such as that from my family farm in Croatia, can last up to 3 years when stored properly.

That being said, there is no good reason for the olive oil on a typical grocery store shelf to be rancid if it is in fact the real deal.

With inventory held mainly in cool, dark storage facilities, you should have very little to worry about if the bottle itself is clear when displayed on the shelf.

Olive oil doesn’t sit on a store shelf for more than 3 months. Buying cycles at the typical grocery retailer take place on a 15 to 30 day recurring schedule anyway.

One the other hand, dark and opaque bottles indicate that the olive oil may have been adulterated with cheaper, potentially rancid seed and vegetable oils, such as peanut oils, which are also potentially a dangerous allergen! Why conceal your olive oil if you have nothing to hide? Premium olive oil is not like a delicate flower. This is an outright marketing lie.

On the other hand, some very low quality olive oil is often also stored in clear plastic bottles (which are marginally cheaper than the tinted ones), precisely because producers are already aware that their olive oil is either rancid or of a lower quality. Why invest in preserving garbage?

In this case, however, they will not be able to label their olive oil as “extra virgin.” You’ll notice that some lower-tier “pure” and “virgin” (note: not “extra virgin”) olive oils such as those from No Name or Filippo Berrio, come in clear plastic bottles.

Do yourself a favor and avoid these altogether. They have no purpose, either for drinking or for cooking, other than to line the pockets of cronies.

Lie #3: You Can’t Cook, Bake or Fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This lie is my favorite.

This is the clearest example of a lie you could ever possibly come up with when it comes to olive oil, and with new scientific research strongly concluding that extra virgin olive is safe to cook with at high temperatures, this lie couldn’t be any more blatant.

This lie comes from an unfortunate coincidence. Olive oil, you see, has a relatively low smoke point compared to other cooking oils. If you leave olive oil on a frying pan on its own it will smoke rather quickly. The assumption here is that smoke causes the formation of cooking aldehydes, which are toxins you definitely don’t want to eat.

What doesn’t make sense at all is why you would ever put olive oil directly onto a frying pan by itself, and then subsequently drink that olive oil on its own. When cooking, heat transfer will prevent smoke and oxidation, so long as there there is additional matter present i.e. food, to transfer the accumulated heat into. Since nobody actually fries and eats air, smoke points are a meaningless metric when it comes to cooking.

I recently took to Twitter to speak my mind about this, as I know in my bones that “cooking with olive [does not] cause cancer”. My grandmother cooks, bakes, sears and deep fries with olive oil often. A family-famous recipe of hers involves baking a cake with at least 3 full cups of olive oil (pro tip: you can get some of her recipes by subscribing to the Selo Olive Mailing List).

Unfortunately, the masses often require an appeal to authority to consider anything that might even slightly change their minds, and peer-reviewed journal articles appear at the very top of such a list of validators for any sort of potentially cognitive dissonant claim.

So, here it is. The research now speaks for itself. Extra virgin olive oil is by far the most stable cooking oil in existence. Smoke points have little or nothing to do with oxidation potential when cooking. In fact, extra virgin olive oil is the most robust cooking oil when it comes oxidation resistance, despite a relatively low smoke point.

This means it is perfectly safe to cook, bake, pan sear, fry and even deep fry with extra virgin olive oil. You may baste your roast pig for Christmas, or deep fry your chicken wings in olive oil. No problem. Whether you want to do so is up to you, but there you have it.

Personally, I’m more inclined to take my olive oil in a shot glass when I wake up or before exercising, and to douse it on my steak along with minced garlic as a cold topper, primarily for the rich flavor.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to purchase olive oil in clear glass bottles, and certainly don’t be afraid to cook with it at high temperatures if that is something you like to do.

Most of all, remember that olive oil is packed with essential vitamins, powerful antioxidants and “good” monounsaturated fats, which boost heart, skin and brain health, prevent cancer, dementia, improve fertility in men, and much, much more.

You simply can’t go wrong with olive oil, no matter how you take it.

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If you LOVE real extra virgin olive oil as much as I do, consider purchasing some of my own hand-picked, first cold pressed, extra virgin liquid gold, direct from my family farm in Croatia.

Additional Research:

De Alzaa F, Guillaume C and Ravetti L. Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating. ACTA Scientific Nutritional Health 2018; 2: 2-11.

Akil E, Castelo-Branco VN, Costa AMM, et al. Oxidative stability and changes in chemical composition of extra virgin olive oils after short-term deep-frying of french fries. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 2015; 92: 409-421.

Casal S, Malheiro R, Sendas A, et al. Olive oil stability under deep-frying conditions. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2010; 48: 2972-2979.

Allouche Y, Jiménez A, Gaforio JJ, et al. How heating affects extra virgin olive oil quality indexes and chemical composition. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2007; 55: 9646-9654.

Ramírez-Anaya JP, Samaniego-Sánchez C, Castañeda-Saucedo M, et al. Phenols and the antioxidant capacity of Mediterranean vegetables prepared with extra virgin olive oil using different domestic cooking techniques. Food chemistry 2015; 188: 430-438.

Bastida S and Sanchez-Muniz F. Thermal oxidation of olive oil, sunflower oil and a mix of both oils during forty discontinuous domestic fryings of different foods. Revista de Agaroquimica y Tecnologia de Alimentos 2001; 7: 15-21.

Perez-Herrera A, Rangel-Zuñiga OA, Delgado-Lista J, et al. The antioxidants in oils heated at frying temperature, whether natural or added, could protect against postprandial oxidative stress in obese people. Food chemistry 2013; 138: 2250-2259.

Varela G and Ruiz‐Roso B. Some effects of deep frying on dietary fat intake. Nutrition reviews 1992; 50: 256-262.

Moreno DA, López‐Berenguer C and García‐Viguera C. Effects of Stir‐Fry Cooking with Different Edible Oils on the Phytochemical Composition of Broccoli. Journal of food science 2007; 72.

Nieva-Echevarría B, Goicoechea E, Manzanos MJ, et al. The influence of frying technique, cooking oil and fish species on the changes occurring in fish lipids and oil during shallow-frying, studied by 1 H NMR. Food Research International 2016; 84: 150-159.

Olive Oil Is Not A Luxury Good

How many “olive oil cabinets” have you come across?

I come from a family that owns nearly 8,000 olive trees on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, and I can tell you, I’ve never come across a single, gold-plated olive oil display case.

When you look beyond the very modern, very masturbatory awards shows and sommelier schools that have cropped up in just the past few decades, olive oil generally doesn’t become more interesting the more money you make.

A case in point. My grandfather maintains multiple, basement-spanning wine cellars. He has one in Canada, and one in Croatia.

He collects grape varietals from all across British Columbia and works with local vintners to produce enough wine every year to last himself a long Canadian winter. He prefers quality over quantity, and of course enjoys both. He certainly doesn’t spare a dime when it comes to his personal supply.

And when he’s in the old country in the late summer, he picks grapes from our quaint little vineyard behind the village home. The famously warm and rich red wine of the Dalmatian Plavac Mali greets him at his inevitable return in the early spring each year.

I’ve never seen him put the same level of care and attention into crafting his wines as he does with his olive oil, of which our family farm now annually produces nearly 10,000 liters and counting.

But this isn’t to say that he cares less about our olive oil legacy than his middling wine hobby. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s just that obsessing over a supply of even the highest quality olive oil, one that that will be consumed by the end of the year anyway, does far less for him personally than a similar investment of time into his much less lucrative albeit much more satisfying and perhaps, one might say, much more sexy, wine hobby.

This is because wine, unlike olive oil, is a true luxury good. You not only spend more on it as your income increases, but you actually buy more of it, and at higher prices too. In fact, you fill cellars and cabinets, and parties, and weddings, and more with it, for decades.

Under the strictest economic definition of a luxury good, even the highest quality extra virgin olive oils do not make the cut.

A luxury good means an increase in income causes a bigger percentage increase in demand. It means that the income elasticity of demand is greater than one. For example, HD TVs would be a luxury good. When income rises, people spend a higher percentage of their income on the luxury good.

The very best olive oil goes rancid in 3 years, with an average edible lifespan of 2-3 years when stored properly, unopened in the cool of dark. Furthermore, the most powerful, health-amplifying, anti-oxidative properties of olive oil are depleted within 6-12 months of harvest.

Olive oil is not something you can afford to save for very long.

This is something that I came to learn while selling our olive oil last year for the first time, after importing a small portion of our annual harvest and launching Selo Olive, the North American distribution arm of our fledgling international olive oil enterprise.

By positioning Selo Olive as a premium, luxury product, one that at times sold for USD $100 per bottle, we sorely missed out on a much larger, much more robust market.

In Mediterranean countries, for example, the average person consumes 15 L of olive oil per year, while in North America, that number barely exceeds a single liter. This may be due to a variety of reasons, including geographic distances (although California almost produces as much as Croatia does now), as well as cultural and gustatory differences, including an aversion to “fat” in North America. All that being said, such a gap represents a vast financial opportunity, and one that simply won’t be closed with a retail price point that is too far above the average European retail price of 30 Euros per liter.

While we did in fact sell our olive oil between $70 and $100 per half liter last year, it not only required that we educate, entertain and hard-sell our customers, but when they did eventually purchase a bottle, they would only drink it sparingly. They would savor it as if it were a 10 year old single malt Scotch whisky, drinking maybe one or two bottles per year.

Although we never received a single complaint, or a refund, we also didn’t get nearly as many orders as I had initially anticipated, naively believing as I did that a sophisticated e-comm offering was the panacea that most olive oil companies were clearly missing.

I was very wrong.

To get specific, the reorder rate at those prices never exceeded twice per year from a single customer, with the average returning customer rate on the whole never surpassing 15%. To sell 10,000 liters per year, the baseline required to justify expanded agricultural operations, we would have to create an average of 27 new customers daily.

To our credit, it was a very tough sell. The cost of shipping glass alone was quite high, forcing us to drive up the retail price to almost unjustifiable levels compared to what it would cost to distribute locally (I’m noticing that many online olive oil retailers ship in tin cans as opposed to glass — this might be something to consider for the future).

But when you add to all that the extraordinary opportunity cost of time required to drum up demand from the internet, what you end up with is a perpetual content marketing operation, in which the founders become irreplaceable, and the business is left without a concrete plan to scale up without them.

This is not desirable from the perspective of the overall supply chain, which demands a constant flow of orders from the farm in order to justify the risks and expenses of investing in export licenses, equipment, compliance, and most of all, the opportunity cost of simply selling our stock at local prices to local markets and tourists — a feat that my grandmother has managed to accomplish single-handedly every year since our groves first started producing olive oil just 5 to 10 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I love olive oil. I use it daily. So does my grandfather. I drink shots of Selo every morning to clear my throat, and douse my steaks in it. Just to be perfectly clear, my taste for olive oil is ravenous. Obviously, the purpose of this article was not to downplay the very product that my family grows and sells.

Rather, it was to put into writing something I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

Olive oil is not a luxury good.

The best olive oils are definitely high quality, “up market”, and even artisanal.

Extra virgin olive oils aid in preventing all sorts of physical ailments, including inflammation, bacterial infections, and even cancer. They’re great for the skin, hair, heart and even the eyes, improving their overall function. They taste fresh and have beautiful aromas. Olive oil is a super-food beyond all physical measure.

But it’s just not a luxury item. No matter how you package it.

Perhaps a change in strategy, one involving a price reduction and a reorientation toward local grocery retailers, was what was required all long. Even if at the expense of “a good margin”, to signal to our customers that our olive oil is not just a gift from the Gods, veritable liquid gold, but that it’s also a healthy dietary staple, a high quality food that you should never go without, and certainly not for long.

Selo Olive now retails for USD $53 at our online store (including shipping), and will continue to be available online. In the next few months, it will retail at CAD $45 in select groceries and artisanal delis in Western Canada. With time, we will expand outward from there.

If you LOVE real extra virgin olive oil as much as I do, consider purchasing some of my own hand-picked, first cold pressed, extra virgin liquid gold, direct from my family farm in Croatia.

The Babushka Pill

My Baba doesn’t understand why I’m not married yet.

In fact, Babushkas around the world, from Siberia to Florida, are bewildered by how many of their grandsons are still bachelors.

Why are young men and women, they wonder, not getting hitched these days? Why do they delay marriage and family life until they are rotting in their late 30s?

Kad ćeš oženit, u pizdu maternu?
Translation: When will you get married, motherfucker?

Babushka, it seems, has lost her once-potent grip on normative youth fertility.

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Croatian Selo Snack: Garlic Dill Croatian Flatbread

Last week we played around a little and mixed a bit of everything from the Mediterranean, including bread, cheese and olive oil, into a fusion eggs benedict. This time we’ll go with something a little more authentically Croatian, a Croatian flatbread.

This week’s snack is a simple and extra-flavorful homemade garlic and herb seasoned Croatian flatbread recipe. In Croatia, we call it lepinja. This flatbread is a great appetizer, snack or hors d’oeuvre for a party, and it’s a relatively quick recipe that can be ready in just under 45 minutes

The reason I chose dill for this recipe (it’s called kopar in Croatian) is because of how commonly it is grown in gardens in the old country. I fondly remember picking dill in the summers with my Baba on mornings where she would make fresh flatbread.

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Croatian Selo Snack: Mediterranean Eggs Benedict

I’ve been posting Selo Oils-inspired snacks on both my Twitter timeline and here on the blog for the last few months.

Going forward, they’ll be available both here and on our mailing list. Make sure to sign up so you don’t miss out. I’ll send you a free snack idea recipe to go with your olive oil every Friday morning.

This week’s snack I dub, “Mediterranean Eggs Benedict.”

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