Why The Color Of Some Bulk Olive Oil Varies [But Costco's Doesn't]

Posted by Hannah Broaddus

Why The Color Of Some Bulk Olive Oil Varies [But Costco's Doesn't]The color of bulk olive oil is important to some food manufacturers.  And not at all important to others.  It depends on the product that you're making and the grade that you've decided to use.

But if you've used a specific brand of olive oil for a long time (for example, let's say Costco's Kirkland brand, as you've been growing your small business), it can sometimes be challenging to switch to something new.  The same goes if you are switching from one bulk oil supplier to another.  

This discussion give you a better understanding of why some suppliers' olive oil changes color from order to order, while others do not.

But first, let's discuss the different aspects that affect olive oil color.

The Natural Aspects That Affect Olive Oil Color

Before you get too far though, you should first understand that color doesn't indicate the quality of the bulk olive oil.  In reality, olive oil is a natural product that changes due to a number of natural factors like climate, rainfall, soil, sunshine, and more.

It's also important to understand all of the different aspects that affect the color of bulk olive oil; there's 5 major reasons why olive oil comes in different colors.  In summary, the most common things that affects the color of the olive oil are:

  1. The grade of olive oil that it is
  2. The olive varietals that were used
  3. When in the season the olives were harvested
  4. The climate in the growing region
  5. How old the oil is/what condition it's been stored in

Now on to the bigger dicussion!

Why Some Supplier's Olive Oil Varies In Color But Others [Like Costco] Do Not

Part of the color discussion is where and how each supplier buys olive oil.  And the reasoning behind how and where they buy depends on you-- their customer and what is most important to you.  

This is always going to be difficult information for you to know as a customer, because some suppliers don't like to share this information.  Personally, we feel that it's a positive thing for our customers to be completely transparent, so we'll explain the differences in what you'll find with each type of supplier-- and where you can run into challenges.  

Manufacturing Suppliers

There are a number of important factors to manufacturing companies.  But a major thing-- the price.  It's important for manufacturing oil suppliers to keep their price as steady as possible through fluctuations in the commodity market.  This allows you as a food manufacturer to maintain own profit margin on your product and keep your retail price steady.

This means that the manufacturing supplier needs to source from a variety of origins around the world.  This allows them to safeguard you: if one country's commodity market goes up they already have a supply chain in place to get good quality inventory in for a reasonable price.  That's one thing the manufacturing supplier is always doing-- they're always looking for the best prices to be able to pass along to you (while still maintaining the quality that you need).

The result is that they're going to carry a variety of ever-rotating origins for their olive oil.  And while they work with their own suppliers to maintain consistency as much as possible, you can expect variations in color if you don't have a supply contract. 

Costco/Large Wholesalers

Many of the worlds larger buyers of olive oil (think Costco or Sysco), partner directly a supplier overseas that packs and prepares their product.  They specify the exact color and taste profile from the manufacturer that they buy from.  The olive oil manufacturer can actually blend this exact specification for them from many different production runs and types of olives.  Then, they lock in long contracts (like 1-2 years) to help maintain that low steady price for you.

Since they're just one company that's buying so much, they get to specific exactly what they want-- and you can choose to buy it or not.  And when you do buy it, you get used to that specific, steady flavor profile.

Retail Brands

Most major retail brands do their best to maintain consistent color, but they won't limit themselves to a particular country of origin.  You may find slight variations, but not major ones.

Retail prices also change with the market, so as the commodity market changes, you'll feel it a bit.  Retail brands are often a cross between the manufacturing supplier and Costco, and color may change slightly from year to year if they switch suppliers.

Wish You Could Lock In A Particular Color Like Costco?

The good news is that if you're a large manufacturer, you can.  In fact, you can share a sample of exactly the color that you'd like with Centra Foods, and we'll have it matched at our lab.  

But here's the key-- as with any bulk olive oil supplier that offers this, have to be buying enough volume.  Locking in a particular consistency, color or flavor profile means that you'll need to sign a supply contract-- and typically be buying 6-12 truckloads each year.

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Topics: Quality Control



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