Class Action Lawsuit

Deoleo has settled a class action lawsuit related to claims about Bertolli Olive Oil. We decided to settle this lawsuit to avoid the continued costs and distraction of litigation. We are confident in the strength of our organization and the excellent quality of the products that we produce. We contend that our products have always been truthfully marketed and labeled, and consumers will still enjoy the high quality, award winning products they expect and receive. We remain deeply proud of our 150-year heritage in producing olive oil.

We haven’t misled anyone

Bertolli has been making olive oil in Italy for over 150 years and will continue to do so from our production facilities in Italy and Spain. Contrary to suggestions in the lawsuit, we have always clearly displayed the country of origin of our olives on our bottles for all our products. In the case of the US packaging, this was displayed on the reverse of the bottle, along with the «best by» date and nutrition information, for consumer reference.

The Italian heritage of our products is indisputable. To be clear, among the portfolio Deoleo make Olive Oil that is 100% Italian and it is labelled and marketed as such. Since the Bertolli family first started pressing olives in Lucca, Italy in 1865, the demand for olive oil has soared to a point that Italians consume more than can be produced and exported. In 2015/16 Italy produced 350,000 tons of oil but consumed 580,000 tons. Taking this, and the quality and quantity of annual harvests, into account has meant, over many generations, the introduction of non-Italian olives to arrive at a blend that perfectly matches consumer tastes, known as organoleptic profiles. For example, for more than a century many Italians have preferred a profile that is more balanced and that is often only attained by blending with non-Italian olives.

The role of our Italian Master Blender Anna Cane, is to follow this delicate balance as the generations of ‘Maestri Oleari’ have before her. Like a great red wine, a whiskey or a coffee Roaster, the art is in the blend and we have three centuries of experience in this. We call this our blending artistry.

By way of example, in 2016 the quality of olive oil yield in Italy was very low, yet in 2017 was plentiful and strong. The objective of the Master Blender is to maintain the taste profile started by the Bertolli family all those years ago but also to adapt it to our customers’ ever changing taste profiles in different countries around the world.

According to various sources, including Istat, Ismea, AC Nielsen and data from the International Olive Council, Italian olive oil production during the 2015/2016 period will reach approximately 350,000 tons, which is a 57% forecasted increase from over previous year.

Tons of oil 2014/2015 2015/2016
Produced 222,000 350,000
Consumed 521,000 580,000
Imported* (10 months) 500,000 455,000
Imported (from outside of the EU) 79,000 66,000
Exported* (10 months) 321,000 270,000
Exported (outside of the EU) 208,000 220,000

Source: COI data, forecasts as of November 2015
*Source: Ismea elaboration of Istat data relative to the period January-October – February 2016

From the data found in the table above, it is apparent that Italians consume much more oil than the country produces. This has resulted in a general increase in European imports of approximately 10% over last year. Extra virgin olive oil dominates the scene with regards to both imports and exports, single-handedly representing approximately half of Italian production and 84% of total consumption. These figures make it evident that it is impossible that all olive oil in Italy is 100% Italian. Thus, there is a need to also use non-Italian olive oil in order to satisfy the demand of Italian consumers. Italy is not to able to be self-sufficient in meeting its own demand, therefore it can not meet the international one either.

Dark Green Bottles

We already pack our EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) for the U.S. in dark green bottles and have done so for some time. Some of our products have always been bottled this way. We recently changed our packaging again and continue to use dark green bottles for our Bertolli EVOO products.

Some of our other non-EVOOs are sold in clear bottles as they are used for cooking and frying purposes and are not open to degradation nor do they contain the same levels of chlorophylls as found in EVOO.

There are four factors to take into account when it comes to the type of bottles used for the storage, mobility and consumption of olive oil — primarily light, temperature and oxygen; and consumer preference. All of these factors play a part in the type of bottles that are used.

Regional preferences also play a role in product packaging. In Italy, for example, consumers have a keen eye for their olive oil and like to be able to see the liquid to check for color and viscosity.

Labelled

We have tested our olive oils in many conditions, at many stages in the process, over many years. It is best practice for olive oils to display the ‘best by’ date, we are best situated to determine how long our products will last. We have shortened the ‘best by’ date to 16 months. In doing this, we still expect our products to reach consumers prior to that date with plenty of time to enjoy the olive oil.

We believe that the bottling date is important because this is the moment that the olive oil is poured into the bottle and sealed fresh. We are also committed to being transparent with our consumers about the ‘vintage’ of our olives in terms of harvesting and pressing.

Because we are a large organization we have implemented many checks across our supply chain from harvesting to pressing to bottling and the result of this process comes on line in Q2 2018.

Testing

Deoleo prides itself on its stringent testing at every step of the production process.

The terms of the settlement are not related to the UC Davis report, which has been widely criticized for its alarmist viewpoint by experts such as the International Olive Oil Council and the North American Olive Oil Association.

We at Deoleo have questioned the validity and objectives of the UC Davis report, which was based mostly on subjective taste testing.

The settlement terms relate to less subjective chemical testing.

We are pleased to see the parameter testing requirements as outlined in the settlement, and we already voluntarily implement a more stringent set of limits than the IOC guidelines.

We do this at several stages and take over 5,000 samples from more than 1250 batches between selection and bottling and conduct an additional round of testing on all our blends prior to final bottling.

We also receive on average at least one inspection per month from institutions and certification bodies.

In 2018 Deoleo has received 74 medals for our products in some of the worlds leading Olive Oil competitions and we have been awarded Best in Class, Platinum, Gold and Silver.