Tag Archives: Olive oil

Opaque Oil

It’s Foodie Friday and I’ve got olive oil on my brain. If you cook, you use olive oil at some point. You might even pay the premium for extra virgin, especially if you’re using it in a dressing. That’s where the fun begins today.

Oil tasting, BAIA October 2006 Wine Tasting, C...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read a book a couple of years ago called Extra Virginity. It’s written by Tom Mueller, who continues to write about the Italian olive oil business, which is rife with fraud. That’s right: you may be paying for a product that is not what you think it is. As reported in the Guardian:

Top Italian olive oil producers are under investigation for allegedly passing off lower-quality products as “extra virgin”, raising fresh concerns about allegations of consumer fraud in the industry. Turin police are examining whether seven companies – Carapelli, Bertolli, Santa Sabina, Coricelli, Sasso, Primadonna, and Antica Badia – have been selling virgin olive oil as 100% extra virgin. According to allegations in Italian press reports, an analysis of samples from all seven brands found that they did not meet EU labelling rules for extra virgin olive oil.

It’s not just the olive oil guys. There is a significant risk of fraud with fish, honey, milk, select spices (saffron, black pepper, chili powder), fruit juices, meat, grains and organic foods. This topic is way too long for a daily screed, but there are two business points which are applicable to any of us in business. The first, and most obvious, is that when consumers can no longer trust your brand, they will move on. Look at what has happened to Volkswagen after they rigged the results of their auto emission tests. You might think that your brand is strong enough to come back after that sort of loss of trust, but you’re delusional. We’ve spent a fair amount of time on honesty and transparency this week, so you know my point of view.

Second, and less obvious.  Chances are that the consumer won’t realize that they’ve been deceived.  They will probably think their dish is just not great or that they did something “wrong” when the fraudulent product doesn’t perform well.  Even if they don’t lose faith in the brand, they might just stop being a consumer of that category altogether.  I am unaware of any industry that wants to shrink its user base, and while people won’t stop cooking, they might switch to another kind of oil that has the same characteristics or to another type of car than a diesel.

I realize that fraud in the food world – or any other business – isn’t new.  There are reports of doctored products going back centuries.  The difference now is that detection and reporting happen more rapidly and that reporting can be widespread instantly.  The damage never goes away because the reports turn up in searches forever.  The solution?  Don’t do it!

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No Place At The Table For Bad PR

I had planned to rant today about some smart marketing I came across the other day when a bit of really awful marketing slapped me in the face. I guess I’ll save the good stuff for after the holiday! Instead, let me present some terrible PR work to you. It’s almost a textbook example of what not to do in the modern age. I’m not going to name names because maybe the client has no clue what this person is doing (which is bad too!) in the client’s name. The names are unimportant; the bad PR work is what matters.

English: Olives in olive oil.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing that catches one’s attention is the release’s headline:

Olive Oil Give Box Celebrated After Investigation

My first thought is what the heck is a “give box”? Something that solicits charitable donations? No, what it is in actuality is a typo. In the headline. He meant “gift”. That’s strike one.

Next comes the meaning of the headline. A gift box celebrated after an investigation? Not exactly. There has been an ongoing investigation of fraudulent labelling in the Italian olive oil world for quite a while. The report came out last week. It made no mention, however, of either gift boxes or the brand that is behind the release, which is a Greek olive oil. As an aside, every olive oil producing region has issues with fraudulent labelling, so I’m not sure that “celebrated” is the right term, since the fact that some Italian producers were doing some bad stuff doesn’t celebrate your Greek oil.  In fact, it sort of makes me wonder if I should wonder about this oil. There is a ton of hyperbole in the document too.  If the oil is “priceless”, why is there a price stated? Strike two.

The body of the story pitch/press release (I can’t tell which it is which is a bad sign right there) reads like a direct response ad. It describes the product along with selling points and has an affiliate link into an Amazon store for purchase.  It goes on to suggest “ideas for this story.”  What story?  Why do my readers (you folks!) care one iota about a premium Greek olive oil?  How does the knowledge of what’s in this release benefit you?  Strike three.

My inclination here is to rewrite this and show you how he could have turned it into something that might be of interest.  Instead, let’s just remember that what’s “news” to you must really be news to the reader (or blogger).  Please don’t ask me, or any other outlet, to serve as your vehicle for unpaid advertising.  Please don’t ask me to waste my readers’ time.  And for goodness’ sake, proofread the release!

There is a valuable role for good PR.  Bad PR such as this has no place. You with me?

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Business Should Be Cooking Italian

cooking it down

Brief post to end the week, kids.  I was cooking dinner last evening- turkey meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, thanks for asking.  But as I was stirring the pot, it dawned on me that many of the same principles of Italian cuisine correspond to smart behavior in business.  Continue reading

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