10 February 2022

Some New Zealand olive oils may not be as local as you think

Our latest investigation of 20 extra-virgin olive oils has found some oils labelled as New Zealand also contain imported oils.

“Most oils state the origin of the olives or oil, but not all are upfront, and you could be forgiven for thinking some New Zealand olive oils are made from 100 percent New Zealand olives,” said Consumer NZ research writer Belinda Castles.

Despite Matapiro New Zealand 100% Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Village Press First Press Extra-Virgin Olive Oil stating New Zealand on the front label, there’s no mention where the olives or oil comes from.

Matapiro said its oil was blended with Australian olive oil to meet demand. The company is hoping to return to wholly New Zealand grown olives and oil soon.

Village Press said its First Press blend is typically New Zealand extra-virgin oil blended with Australian oil. The company told Consumer NZ the reference to New Zealand represents that it is a local business where all oil is blended, filtered, bottled and labelled within the country. Village Press told Consumer NZ the label will be amended at its next harvest so it’s clear not all the First Press oil is New Zealand sourced.

New country of origin regulations, which come into force for fresh food from 12 February 2022, make it mandatory for companies to disclose the origin of certain foods such as fruit and vegetables, meat and cured pork, and fish and shellfish. Olive oil is not covered by the regulations.

We are asking for regulations to include all single ingredient foods and olive oil falls into this category.

Consumer NZ olive oil results

Consumer NZ tested 20 extra-virgin olive oils from New Zealand, Australia, Africa, and Europe. All oils met the criteria to be labelled extra-virgin and two Kiwi oils achieved gold medal standard (86 to 100 percent) in the blind tasting carried out by accredited tasters.

Check out the full taste test results.

What to look for when buying olive oil

  • Buy the freshest oil possible. Look for a pressed-on or harvest date. Best-before dates aren’t always a good indicator of quality, as you don’t know how old the oil can be.
  • Green or dark bottles, or tins, provide better protection from the light. Don’t buy clear-bottled oils, especially ones that have been displayed in a shop window or under fluorescent light.
  • Store in a cool dark place, tightly stoppered.
  • Don’t stockpile. Oils don’t improve with age so use any open oil within 12 months.

Member comments

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Jeff S.
15 Feb 2022
Imports

I assume that those who think imported products are bad also believe we should stop exporting food and that customers in Europe should also boycott food from NZ.

Peter R.
26 Feb 2022
Not naïvely about good or bad

I don’t think anyone said anything about imports or exports being bad. It’s about actively choosing to reduce a footprint at an individual level and supporting an indigenous cultivation and trade. And to do so wittingly. It’s not a boycott, it’s a choice, and often pivots on produce being available close to hand.

Peter R.
13 Feb 2022
Oily waters

It's not about Australian olive oil and its merits. It's about making informed choices and purchases. I am often prepared to pay a premium for New Zealand produce and products - I actively avoid imports where I can. For me there's an ethical choice here and I don't want it hi-jacked by inappropriate or misleading labelling. I try to manage my footprint - which remains too big and too privileged. One of the named producers in this story just had my last habitual purchase.

James C.
12 Feb 2022
NZ Producers - Shame On You

Really? Disgusting. The food production industry again shows they are willing to take their customers for a ride when legislation is absent. Labelling rules need to be clear, detailed and accurate.

Graeme M.
12 Feb 2022
Need clearer origins on labels.

I'm continually astounded at the number of ways manufacturers use to dupe the consumers. They must have a separate department whose only job is to design labels to maximize sales.
Many years ago when my wife was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the diabetes clinic taught us how to read labels to determine ingredients and nutritional value.
I still do it know.
Eg. Tinned salmon. Ingredients: kahawai with flavoring and color. Made in Poland.
The list is endless.

Jacqui B.
12 Feb 2022
Australian Oil

Interesting article but I think that there is actually Nothing Wrong with Australian oil, especially the oil in tins. They seem younger oils than the European oils. I used Red Island when I was in Australia, loved the real olive smell, and was rapt to find it in Countdown, bottom shelf of course . The bottles (on eye level shelves) are twice as expensive as the 3l tins but still on a par with "local " oils .

Eva P.
12 Feb 2022
Depends

I suppose that depends on what your criteria for choosing are.
Just price and taste?
Or things like carbon footprint in imports, and supporting our New Zealand economy.

Diane B.
12 Feb 2022
Shop local but...

I agree in the main, I try not to buy too much imported food, and shop at Farmers Market but of course, there are some items, coffee, rice etc where there is no choice. As for olive oil, I agree with Jacqui, the cost of local boutique olive oil is simply prohibitive when using it for cooking. I buy the Red Island tins, good quality and fresh. Like most people, I can't afford double the price.

David G.
12 Feb 2022
Red Island

We have used Red Island as our 'basic' oil for some years - so, pleased to see that it rates so well. We were somewhat influenced by an American health commentator who pointed out that certain European oils have been 'extended/laced' with non-olive oils. Our salad oil is sourced directly from a Far North olive estate - not in this ratings list... but certainly very tasty.

Peter L.
12 Feb 2022
You miss the point

It's not about the quality of the oil. It's about producers being misleading with their labelling. If they are going to state "New Zealand" on the label without explaining what that means, they are being dishonest.
Producers should clearly state where the oil is sourced from and what the actual ingredients are. If I buy "New Zealand" olive oil and subsequently find that the oil is not from New Zealand I will not be supporting that producer again.

Lynsie Anne M.
02 Apr 2022
Do not cook with extra virgin at high temperature

For 2 reasons.
1. It is a waste of money cooking with extra virgin when a lower grade olive oil will do the job.
2. More importantly; extra virgin has a lower smoke point which is the temperature at which a fat breaks down into visible gaseous products. That breakdown can ruin the taste of foods.