Help me solve an olive oil mystery
As a first generation Italian American who loves to cook, I use copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil in my cooking. After trying many brands, I have become strongly brand loyal to Frantoia. Unfortunately, it has gotten increasingly expensive, but since my mother taught me never to skimp on food, I continue to buy it, even though a big bottle is now $22 at Fairway, $12 for a small bottle. (I joined the Park Slope Food Coop for a month and the only reason I was sad to quit was that Frantoia was $16 a bottle there. Still not worth the headache, but I had to think about it.)
Yesterday I was at Trader Joe's and paid $4.99 for a small bottle of Monte Pollino di Trappeto Gold Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil to bring to work (for my salads. Salad dressings are just vile.) When I put it in my desk next to my nearly empty small bottle of Frantoia, I realized that they were in the exact same bottle. I mean exact. And the bottle is someone distictive, with an olive motif etched in the glass (I'm sure this was subconsiously part of the reason I originally bought it, but I didn't expect it to be the exact bottle.) Then I looked at the details and both of them were packed by Pemiati Oleifici Barbera. I haven't tried the Trader Joe's bottle, but the color of both of them is exactly the same. Could it be that I have found a glorious loophole? This would be incredibly exciting, but at the same time a little depressing that my beloved Frantoia would be sticking it to me in such a cruel way. Then again, what else can you expect from Sicilians? (Joke. I am Sicilian, so I can make it.)
I don't imagine anyone would really know the answer to this, but I was so excited about my discovery, I wanted to share. of course, that will probably cause of run on the Monte Pollino oil but who cares since Trader Joes will probably discontinue it and break my heart anyway, as that rascal Joe has a history of doing.
So what do you think? Have I stumbled upon a goldmine, or am I no richer than I was yesterday?
On vvv03's suggestion, I just tried the Monte Pollini. It's perfectly fine -- green olive oil tasting -- but for my money, the Martini from Sicily at TJs has more of that beautiful green olive aroma and flavor, and is much cheaper. Still glad I tried it.
Didn't see the Frantoio/a there at the store. I don't use these olive oils as finishing oils, just a bit when sauteing or making my (food processor) Caesar dressing. I like a VERY green olive oil (not nuovo with a bite, however) for finishing.
" I wanted to share. of course, that will probably cause of run on the Monte Pollino oil but who cares since Trader Joes will probably discontinue it and break my heart anyway, as that rascal Joe has a history of doing. "
Very funny and sadly true.
Sometimes companies just have too much of something on stock and will unload some on a discount store like Trader Joe's (sorry, I still consider it that). So it might indeed be a short-time thing.
Thanks for the tip. I'll look for it.
"This would be incredibly exciting, but at the same time a little depressing that my beloved Frantoia would be sticking it to me in such a cruel way."
Don't blame Frantonia (or Pemiati)...
I'm not familiar with Fairway, me being on the West Coast, but looks like they're fairly upscale and only have four stores. On a higher-end olive oil, they're probably making a lot of money - maybe 40-50%. Because they only have 4 stores, they're probably being supplied by a wholesaler who's making 15-25%. The wholesaler in turn is probably buying from an importer who's making anywhere from 10-20%.
Compare that to a discounter like Trader Joe's with something on the order of 300 stores - they're probably importing it themselves and could be paying pretty close to the same amount as the importer supplying Fairway.
That's if it turns out to be the same oil in the bottle. It could, as rworange points out, be excess oil they put into a secondary label, or it could be oil that QC rejected for the Frantonia label...
re: David Carlson
While I'm sure your numbers regarding markups are accurate, Fairway is actually somewhat discounted as compared to other gourmet stores (like Zabar's or Citarella). The real evidence of what it costs was the Park Slope Food Coop price of $16 (and change). PSFC only marks up 21%. Without actually doing the arithmetic, I'd say that makes a large bottle wholesale at around $12 or $13. We're now getting a little closer to the cost of the Trader Joe's olive oil. I'll report back on this thread after I've tried it.
I visited an olive oil processing and packaging factory about a year ago. They processed and packaged 5 different grades of olive oil. Just 5. Yet they were packaging the product for, oh, I would say, judging by the variety of bottles and labels and the comments of my guide, well over 25 brands. And, yes, the top grade - extra virgin - was one of those. So it would come as no surprise to me that one could get the exact same oil from different bottles... and at remarkably different prices.
BTW, while at the factory, I tried to note the different brand names... my guide, while not exactly hustling me out of the area, wasn't exactly 'forthcoming"...
I'm just puttin' 2 and 2 together...