Freelance writer Laura
Bode ;lls this month’s
consumer reporter slot
with this behind-the-scenes
look at a Costco program.
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I HAD THE recent luxury of going out to a
nice Italian dinner with my husband.
The meal started off on the right note—a
simple salad and a nice loaf of crusty bread
accompanied by some incredible extra-virgin
olive oil (EVOO). Really good EVOO is like
fine wine: It can hit your taste buds with a distinct flavor, which can immediately transform
into something deeper and more intense.
My oil-dipped bread at dinner started me
thinking about the balanced flavor of the
EVOO I use at home—Kirkland Signature™
Italian EVOO and Kirkland Signature Tuscan
EVOO—and how it is made.
I asked Shauna Lopez, a Costco corporate
foods buyer, and David Mahaffy, president of
Certified Origins, an olive oil supplier for
Costco, to help me understand how Kirkland
Signature EVOO is made from start to finish,
how its flavor comes about and, besides its
amazing price point, why it is held in such
It starts with Mother Nature
Olive trees prefer climates with hot, dry
summers and cold, drier winters, which is why
Italy, France, Greece, Spain and Turkey are
popular places to grow olives. In Italy there are
around 1 million olive growers, Mahaffy says.
About 100,000 of them—mostly consisting of
small family farms—supply olives that are
milled for Costco’s Italian and Tuscan Kirkland
Signature EVOO programs.
The trees are pruned in early winter, and
the fruit begins growing from June through
early fall. Harvest time for olives destined for
olive oil is generally early December. The right
harvest time is when olives begin to change
color, which allows for the highest health ben-
efits (polyphenols) and lower acidity.
“Harvest time is a family affair on many
small farms throughout Italy,” says Mahaffy.
“Multiple generations pitch in to pick the olives.”
The day’s harvest is quickly loaded on
trucks and transported to the local mill, usu-
ally within hours. “The short time from tree to
mill is critical for EVOO quality,” he explains.
The mill process is simple. The juice of the
olive is mechanically separated from the solids.
To make EVOO, no heat or chemical extrac-
tion is allowed, thus the term “first cold press.”
In order to maintain optimal freshness
and quality, the EVOO is kept in stainless
steel tanks until bottling.
oils, straight from
With the Kirkland Signature Tuscan
EVOO, Costco sells only the current crop year,
and each bottle is dated with the crop year.
From tree to bottle
The flavor found in each bottle of
Kirkland Signature EVOO is dependent on
the variety of the olive, the soil and the climate, along with the methods of harvesting.
Olive oil has stronger flavors right after harvest, when it is the freshest, and once bottled
it mellows with time.
Grading the oils involves a diligently followed process, Mahaffy explains. The oil
from pressing olives is called “virgin” olive oil.
fresh in Sicily.
The Bureau Veritas certi;cation label
(below) on every bottle of Kirkland
Signature Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
ensures traceability from origin.