6,000 years of Greek extra virginity; Let's level the olive oil playing field in the U.S.

Hello friends! Today marks 4 months since we sold our very first bottle of fresh pressed Kouzini extra virgin olive oil! Tony Kasandrinos and I decided we wanted to make our small town’s olive oil available to Americans everywhere in the Fall of 2014. 

Everyday, I am asked the same set of questions from customers, distributors, and supermarket managers: "Why should we buy your Greek extra virgin when we can buy Italian or Spanish oil for much less?" So I tell them Kouzini oils are single origin, raw, 100% Greek, pressed from small family farms, robust, fruity, and with low 0.4% acidity- they're less than half the required maximum for EVOO. And most importantly- our oil tastes and smells REALLY good. 

As media attention continues to grow surrounding the truth about olive oils labeled as “extra virgin” from Spain and Italy- I continue to maintain hope that a fundamental shift in consumer preferences for real cold pressed, single origin, low acidity EVOO will someday help smaller producers compete with the conglomerates who continue to hold supermarket shelves hostage to their "lantern oil," as our Giagia calls it. Customers who experience Kouzini's 100% Greek fresh extra virgin oil for the first time will notice the difference almost immediately upon opening the bottle. 

How could a product with over 6,000 years of history and prized since ancient times become the center of such fraudulent activity? The Olive Institute at the University of California- Davis found that 69% of olives oils labeled as extra virgin on U.S. supermarket shelves are in fact not extra virgin. Any olive oil touted as such and sold in clear glass or plastic packaging probably isn’t extra virgin at all. It’s important to know that it takes only a few days for extra virgin olive oil to oxidize if exposed to any light. Another sign to look out for is oils that are mixed from various regions of the Mediterranean or falsely labeled to deceive consumers on their true origin. Like fine wine, olive oil shouldn’t be mixed. We know first hand that the big companies from Italy and Spain purchase Greek extra virgin olive oil to enhance the flavor of their lower grade oils. Having lived in Greece at various points of our lives and as an undergraduate student, we’ve lived it- through friends, family and stories whispered in the Athenian streets. 

Of all olive oil produced in Greece, nearly 70% meet the standards for extra virgin oil (an acidity of 0.8% or less). Greek olive trees produce strong, robust oils that help mask defects of lower grade olive oils once imported and mixed in Italy and Spain. Due to this manipulation and the sheer output of Spain and Italy- small Greek oil companies such as Kouzini and others simply can not compete on price alone. The European Union and the FDA must find a better way to regulate the vast olive oil industry's producers and marketers, so consumers can be sure they are receiving only true, 100% extra virgin olive oil from the Mediterranean basin.

We are on the cusp of an olive oil revolution in the U.S. Not only will this help the California olive oil industry, but most importantly, help level the 'olive oil playing field' for all of us who produce and market this liquid gold. To date, Kouzini is available in our hometown market of Rochester, NY and in New York City. Every day is a new day to educate on the importance of high quality EVOO. Almost 100% of the time during our in-store demonstrations, we find that shoppers do not know how to select or look for a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Having grown up with Kouzini olive oil and being a staple in our family's kitchen for centuries has made this journey that much more personal for us. It's a win-win for everyone; the local Greek economy, our loyal customers who appreciate good olive oil, and by donating 1 meal for every bottle sold to Feeding America. 

The name ‘Kouzini’ (little kitchen) was born; right in our grandmother’s kitchen. Kouzini is two cousins, a family, a town, and an entire country bound together by one common, staple ingredient that deserves the respect of its 6,000 year old history. Visit us at http://www.kouzini.com/ourstory/ to learn more about our story, products and mission.