NZ’s $35M Olive Oil Wars


The other day I got an email from some PR flunky wanting me to push their product for free while no doubt tucking a company with a claim that they’re a “Social Media guru”. Matilda was pushing Bertolli olive oil and apparently it would be good for trafic and my blog to push their product for free. (more on that that in a later post)

I’m a fan of olive oil, and had heard via the tip line of a war going on within NZ’s olive oil industry.

So while Matilda missed the boat, the thought of a war within the olive trees sounded interesting.

The more I looked, the murkier it got. As always there’s a few clowns, and one of them has to be the so-called industry association Olives New Zealand (ONZ). It’s never quite recovered from a dodgy judging scandal a few years back.

It was just a minor problem. One of Olive NZ judge Margaret Edwards awarding her own olive oil first price in the 2008 Olive New Zealand awards.  Makes you wonder what’s going on when TV3’s removed the item “Olive oil judge caught out judging her own product” covering the story.

But it doesn’t stop there. Olive NZ couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

Just a year later Olive NZ was mired in controversy again after it said they’d only judge olive oils that had their own Olive NZ sticker on it – which doesn’t meet International Olive Council (IOC) trade standard requirements.

Then jump forward a year or two and the olive wars flare up once again, this time with Fair Go hacking into the issue making a complete mess of its testing of olive oil.   

Who did Fair Go have a chat to about olive oil… none other than controversial expert Margaret Edwards who says on her website “she is the leader of the New Zealand Sensory Panel for Olive Oil that is recognised by the International Olive Oil Council…”

You’d think Fair Go would have checked this wouldn’t you. If they did maybe they would have also discovered that MFAT notified the IOC that the Olives NZ Sensory Panel had been dissolved. Whoops.

Maybe they would have done some research and read The Olive Oil times who reported only two months earlier in March 2012 on “the Demise of Olive New Zealand’s Sensory Panel” saying;



But hell, why not plough ahead and re-ignite an entire olive oil industry. Good one Fair Go.

The result was a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority who slammed Fair Go’s olive oil show. How much of a slapping? You decide.

Standard 5 (accuracy) – references to IOC accreditation were inaccurate and gave greater status to the testing than was justified – broadcaster was put on notice that the testing was not “IOC accredited” but nevertheless made statements of fact to that effect – upheld

Makes you wonder why Margaret Edwards didn’t say anything…

[19]  Here, the sensory testing was not carried out in the laboratory for which the supervisor was awarded IOC recognition, even though the people on the sensory testing panel were apparently qualified to carry out testing of the kind. As we have said, it is clear from the information we have, and from the IOC website, that the laboratory is key. We therefore think it was inaccurate to suggest that the panel and its supervisor were IOC accredited when that testing was not carried out in the laboratory specifically given recognition by the IOC.

Fair Go takes one in the chops.

[29]  We are therefore satisfied that the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead viewers. The broadcaster, having had its testing process challenged, carried on making claims of status that were not correct.

But where is Margaret Edwards in all of this? Mmmm seems to be still flogging herself around the world including Olive Japan as one of their 2013 Judges.


What a mess for Olive NZ.


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  • Agent BallSack

    She drinks a bottle a day. Perfect picture of good health if you ignore the photograph

    • Patrick

      She is 149 years old though…

  • News Hound

    Fair Go’s take on olive oil has exposed their festering left-wing and the hippy hobby farmer has embarrassed them.

    • Theodora

      Festering left wings cured by good Marlborough extra virgin oil. Guaranteed 100% hippy free.High in antioxidants and oleocanthal. Healthiest oil in the world and tested to prove it. Take 2 tablespoons 3 times a day. Keeps brain flexible and well oiled.

  • stephen2d

    And you still managed to mention Bertolli? Hahaha, well done Cam!

  • blokeintakapuna

    Betolli oil – almost rancid it tastes so aweful.
    Now real NZ Olive oil is reputed to be grown just North of Auckland and that is where the best oil in NZ can be sourced from. Master Chefs everywhere rave about it… and the taste is divine!

    • Saccharomyces

      I dunno, I’ve had some pretty good ones from down Gizzy way too.

      • blokeintakapuna

        Yep – they’d probably get a podium finish. Certainly well ahead of the imported rubbish NZ gets sent.
        …and remember – flavoured oils are only flavoured for 1 reason!

    • CheesyEarWax

      I am no food snob but the NZ olive oil i have, from Nelson, does taste much better than the supermarket European brands like Lupi and Bertolli.

      • Orange

        I’m sure the bertolli or Lupi I got was rancid. Just awful stuff. The NZ ones in dark bottles are lovely.

        • Sea

          I wasn’t aware you could buy Bertolli olive oil in New Zealand??

    • Col

      Talking like that could start me thinking your getting a little like Hone, sorry to say. Like wine some vineyards are good in the region and others are crap.
      You will find good oil down the South Island. Now if I see you talking up the North again, I will not vote for you. lol

    • Theodora

      It’s where you grow that counts. The olive tree is not a subtropical. Northland rain washes away healthy flavour and antioxidants. The best oil in the Southern Hemisphere is from Marlborough, blessed with a Mediterranean climate. The high autumn sunshine and cool, crisp nights get those healthy polyphenols rocking!

  • Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Matilda would be better employed reassigned to Unilevers’ Vaselene products.

  • CheesyEarWax

    Interesting. I watched that Fair Go article and remembered vividly one of the reason they said olive oils only have a shelf-life of about 6 months. So NZ made oils will always tastes better because it doesn’t need to be sitting in storage and transported.
    Well, i recently got some NZ made oils through the wife’s work colleague whose family grows and produces their own. They said their oils will last for at least 2 years if stored in dark and dry place.
    So who told porkies to Fair Go, Olive NZ?

    • Orange

      Store in the dark, that’s why dark bottles are better.

    • Madonna

      A real extra virgin never tells porkies. She’s healthy, robust, peppery+lively with a chastity certificate to prove it! Bertolli’s an old gal who’s been around the block.

  • rangitoto

    I used to get a Sicilian olive oil that was good (and the mafia didn’t
    even make me say that). I used to be able to buy it direct from the
    importer at a reasonable price but when it went retail only it was
    exorbitant, so I use mostly NZ produced oil since then. I don’t think
    the NZ ones are as good but are still much better than the big euro super
    market brands.

  • LionKing

    Good exposure WO. What a fiasco. Fair Go was anything but fair, and by the looks of things cocked it up enormously. Typical amateur reporting standards and tried to defend it when clearly the BSA found them to be in the wrong.

    Good old Lupi olive oil has done me wonders, so I’m sticking to that one.

  • Hillary Green

    I watched that FairGo programme but had no idea they were ignoring some pretty important facts. It has certainly made me wonder why Fair Go didn’t research the testing better, or looked more carefully at their so-called expert. It makes me wonder if Margaret Edwards doesn’t have an axe to grind against other suppliers of olive oil -certainly looks that way.

  • DLM

    What a complete load of horse shite Fair Go is. New Zealanders are getting completely ripped off when buying expensive locally produced olive oil.

  • Whafe

    When I was living in Spain, I learn’t that most of the olives were grown in Spain, NOT Italy…. It is BS, because most in NZ would believe because the oil it an Italian brand, it would be grown there, no sir no sir….
    Europe does have some amazing Olive Oil, just not the product on the supermarket shelves here…. I very much miss the olives I used to get constantly in Spain….
    There is some good NZ Olive oils….
    I have a meeting on Wednesday in the AM with someone whom is on the judging panel also, I am going to see what the bully is. ;)

    • igp

      Wow – you must be important.

  • John Q Public

    Don’t recall seeing any retraction in the following Fair Go ep? Did anyone else?

  • Travis Poulson

    Sir Paul Holmes was making olive oil, never got to try some. Hope someone is carrying on the business so I can get me a bottle. Quality with olive oil is quite important as it can vary so much.

    Edit: just looked it up, oh good god, he used Deborah Pead to promote his product…..

  • Lofty

    Viridis Grove oil from Katikati, the Frantoio oil is just bloody fantastic.
    We get ours from the Tauranga farmers market, a little expensive but it tastes fantastic…beats any imported oil we have ever had, and we consume a lot of olive oil.
    Drizzled over a plate of Caprizi…mmmm ambrosia….

    Do try it.

  • igp

    It’s amazing how many of these comments are from self-interested people just trying to praise their own olive oil, by way of rubbishing everyone else’s.This is the major problem with the NZ olive oil industry, most (with a few notable exceptions – Village Press) try to persist with the fantasy that all imported olive oil is rancid, and this is what they try to call marketing their own product. Interesting that Margaret Edwards’ unqualified panel said that Lupi was rancid, yet a full-IOC panel in Italy found the exact same batch, taken from NZ supermarket shelves, to be Extra Virgin quality. An incredible amount of BS in the NZ side of this industry.

    • Madonna

      You gotta get healthy man! It’s all about good science if NZ virgins want to be 100%pure. Polyphenols and antioxidants are easily tested in any food lab and are really the only honest indicator of health, shelf life and freshness in an extra virgin no matter where she’s from, how much she costs, how fancy her label or which “experts” have tasted her charms. Fair Go cocked up but it’ll be a sad day for some in this greasy game when the Commerce Commission wakes up and starts asking questions about use by dates on labels. It’s not just the BSA who need to dig a teensy bit more.

      Ha Ha …Nice try on your notable exception. How about pulling your head out of your sanctimonious wee backside and come clean. Talking self interest and you do write like you are in “the know” hasn’t Lupi and Carbonell aka William Aitken+Co bought shares in Village Press or is this a rumour?

      Big mistake to assume all extra virgins are the same. Joe Public will wise up in time. Of course an Italian IOC panel certified an Italian exported oil tickety boo. You trust a Berlusconi approved panel to measure virginity??
      The biggest BS in this oily game is generated by rancid madams and pimps in marketing companies flogging off very tired, overcooked, fake extra virgins they bought very cheap in Aussie or Europe. These stale old PR spinners are hoping nobody lifts the veil and probes into their virgin’s real age or health by seriously testing and certifying her very fleeting virtues.

      • igp

        Hi Madonna.

        Interesting choice of name – I’m assuming not your real one ? To me it conjures up images of an ageing rocker with false boobs, but hey, each to his own.

        Use By Dates ? Commerce Commission ? Go down that track if you want to, but I think you’ll find no real excitement to be had there. I’m sure Lupi isn’t afraid.
        And poor old Wayne Startup at the Village Press. All I did was praise him for running a good business (does this make him unpopular in NZ ?), now suddenly he’s a bad boy !! I guess if you check the Companies Register that will tell all – or nothing.
        Ironic that you doin’t trust an Italian IOC panel’s results, but I presume you’re quite happy to believe the Fair Go panel that lied about it’s accreditation ? Often I find that one “misrepresentation” is accompanied by others. As we have seen in this case.
        But nice chatting with you. Keep well-oiled and slippery :-)