When you buy olive oil, what do you look for? The country where the olives were sourced? A recognizable brand name? Whatever bottle is on sale?
In just the past few years, small businesses producing well-sourced products like spices, coffee, dairy, and wine have started to flourish within the mainstream. Aishwarya Iyer, the founder of Brightland, is hoping to do the same for olive oil.
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Though she didn’t know it back then, Iyer’s first inclination to start an olive oil company happened years ago, when she was living in New York City. She’d started cooking at home and couldn’t figure out why she was getting stomach aches after meals. After cutting out dairy and gluten to no avail, she realized the culprit was actually olive oil.
“Until then, I had never given olive oil a second thought,” Iyer told me over the phone. “It was an everyday staple but super forgettable… I did some googling. And that's when I learned that a lot of the olive oil that people around the world are consuming is fermented or totally rotten.”
Iyer took a deep dive into olive oil research, discovering just how far-reaching olive oil fraud goes. In addition to the spoiled oils, she discovered that about 80 percent of oil marketed as “extra-virgin Italian” was fake. They were coming from other countries and then shipped to Italy. At some refineries, olive oil is even cut with cheaper vegetable oils. And sometimes the oil is dyed with chlorophyll so it appears to have that authentic greenish hue.
Oh, hi there vegan olive oil gelato ? . . This recipe crafted (and frozen) up by Executive Chef Megan Marlow for @citizenmustard, is what ice cream dreams are made of. For the full Field Note recipe, hit up the #linkinbio ?
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Iyer knew this was a business she could sink her teeth into, but she quickly discovered it would be challenging to source a high-quality olive oil from countries like Spain, Greece, or Italy, because of traceable supply chain problems. After moving to Los Angeles, Iyer began visiting California olive groves, where she could see with her own eyes every step of the growing and refining process.
“I was like, okay, this is it,” she said.
And from there, Brightland was born. Still, just because a product is high-quality doesn’t mean it will sell.
“[I thought] why don't we take a step back and really think about reimagining how people think about olive oil in their homes,” she said. “We’re living in a really special time where people want to be at home more… And I think what people also want is to showcase the products that they care about. What if we built a brand that people felt excited to keep out on their kitchen countertop?”
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Brightland’s bottle design sets it apart from other olive oils. Since oil’s number one enemy is light, most companies recommend storing bottles (even the green-tinted ones) in cabinets. Brightland bottles, on the other hand, have a UV-protectant matte coating, so the oil's integrity is preserved even as it sits on your counter.
Brightland currently sells three products: “Awake,” a grassy Coratina olive oil that Iyer recommends for soups, roast chicken, and fried eggs; “Alive,” a nutty blend of Frantoio and Coratina olives that works best on salads, drizzled over ice cream, and in baked goods; and “Lucid,” a lemon-flavored Frantoio olive oil that originally was intended to be a limited edition oil, but was so popular that Brightland decided to make it part of their full collection. Iyer likes to use Lucid in pancakes and pasta, as well as in cocktails. Iyer also mentioned that a new secret Brightland product will be launching as soon as next month, so keep an eye on their Instagram and online store for details.
Read more: 5 Big Mistakes You’re Probably Making With Olive Oil
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