Liquid Thinking

Drinking Oil

What's the score on drinking olive oil?

2nd November 2022

Drink a quarter cup of olive oil daily? Why not? With celebs, social media stars, and new oil brands all espousing the benefits of sipping it daily, alongside top bars adding the ingredient to their cocktail lists, we ask, how has this staple of every kitchen managed to rebrand itself as a key wellness tool?

Another week, another drinks trend we can blame on TikTok. Well, at least in part. Yes, this week it’s ‘content creators’ sipping on olive oil that has the social media consuming masses enthralled. Take a glimpse at the aptly named @oliveoilqueen if you’d like to explore the trend a little more. Her video claiming that sipping on the stuff makes her less bloated has had over 3.5 million views. And she’s not the only one on the platform promoting the trend. It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s a whole movement of creators now talking up the health benefits of adding olive oil to their routines.

But, it can be argued, the concept of sipping olive oil for its health benefits is nothing new. Embedded in Mediterranean culture, in some regions sipping it daily is a long-established tradition. And a trawl through health food headlines reveals there’s been a few false starts when it comes to trying to take the trend mainstream, with headlines from 2015 and 2018 extolling its virtues, but landing nowhwere.

So why is this taking off now? Aside from the power of this relatively new social media platform, there’s also been a number of celebrities backing the trend. From Kourntey Kardashian (who always loves a health food trend) to Goldie Hawn, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, all have taken to social media or pontificated about the trend in interviews, making claims that range from the oil’s ability to keep them looking young, as well as easing painful periods and digestive issues.

Here come the health benefits

In the US, the FDA actually recommends drinking two tablespoons of olive oil a day. However, that’s usually consumed as part of a meal. Consuming the oil is also said to relieve bloating, aid upset stomachs, aid digestive issues, regulate blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and with some brands even claiming it aids weight loss.

What’s clear is that these health claims have been key to oil’s renewed appeal, and consumer’s openness to embracing a new way of consuming it. For example, in its category disrupting branding, Saint Supply claims that its olive oil contains squalene, which it says helps stimulate healthy collagen connectivity, or put more simply, it boosts skin elasticity and prevents wrinkles. It’s also anti-inflammatory. Vitamin E is claimed to assist in reducing ‘oxidative stress’ and as a whole, the product is said to maintain a healthy heart too.

Rebranding olive oil

But beyond the health claims, what stands out is how Saint Supply has effectively rebranded olive oil itself, repackaging it as an aspirational lifestyle tool. Healthwise, the brand claims to fortify and invigorate each body system with a powerful combination of ‘plant-based Superphenols’. Claiming to be inspired by ancient rituals, the packaging for the brand – whose black bottle is closer in appearance to a spirit or perfume rather than an oil – even refers to it as a ‘Living Elixir’, said to be most beneficial when consumed every day. From its prominent endorsement by Beyonce, to supplying each bottle with its own shot glass, Saint Supply has repositioned olive oil both visually, and practically.

Another brand to borrow cues from other categories in its repositioning of oil, is Grove and Vine. Rapper and food lover Action Bronson has partnered with the company on an early harvest extra virgin olive oil. Packaged in bottles and labels that closely resemble a fine wine, and with limited editions, a focus on terroir, vintages and harvest dates, the intention of the brand to elevate olive oil to something worthy of careful tasting and consideration is clear.

Citizens of Soil too, is bringing a new approach to the category. Focused on small, single estate producers and offered in wine-style bottles as well as eco-friendly pouches, the brand is focused on transforming the oil from something stale, old and flat and therefore lacking in flavour and nutrition, to fresh and full-flavoured. Its oils are early harvest and cold extracted and again, focus on terroir. One of its core products for example is a single estate extra virgin olive oil from the Alto Alentejo wine region of Portugal. 

But perhaps the brand that has made the biggest moves visually to reposition olive oil from overlooked cooking ingredient to lifestyle essential, is Brightland. Its packaging, range of flavours, and miniature sample sets more closely resemble craft gin than a cooking ingredient. As is the point. Again, pushing freshness and provenance, the range is made exclusively from Californian grown olives that have received minimal intervention and processing. Borrowing cues, language and brand design from the wine and craft spirits industry, this first wave of modern oil brands is riding the publicity wave from the recent flurry of social media attention and in so doing, is reshaping the category.

What’s happening in drinks?

Interestingly for those of us frequenting the drinks, rather than the culinary world, this renaissance and repositioning of oil is having a ripple effect in the cocktail world. The ingredient has been steadily making its way onto cocktail lists too.

Cahoots Bar in London recently launched a Japanese take on a martini, called the Guerrilla, which uses Tanqueray No Ten infused with seaweed, Yuzushu sake, mirin and Lillet Blanc, finished with a dot of olive oil combined with charcoal powder. It’s fitting that Axia – a Greek spirit made from the resin of the mastiha tree – has partnered with Notting Hill’s Zephyr bar to create a take on a Negroni, made with Axia, gin, vermouth, bitters Americo and olive oil.

Zetter Townhouse meanwhile has a Rosita on the menu, made with Cazadores Blanco, rose vermouth, rosewater and rose-infused olive oil. Meanwhile, the winner of Patron tequila’s Perfectionists Cocktail Competition, won with a cocktail featuring Patron Silver, fino sherry, simple syrup, lime, celery and kiwi juice, alongside two drops of vanilla olive oil. Though cocktails have long taken on culinary influences, the embrace of the cocktail world of this trending ingredient demonstrates the power that such trends have in drawing eyes to menus.

Lessons to be learned?

The disruptive rebranding of the oil category, alongside a sustained presence on social media with health recommendations from trusted figures, has helped propel it into the spotlight. With gut-health also a trending topic on social media according to the New York Times, this momentum has occurred at the right moment when it comes to capturing consumer interest.

For drinks brands, what’s clearly there to see is the borrowing of the visual language of craft spirits and wines – alongside cues from the fragrance industry – to elevate the category and appeal to consumer’s lifestyle aspirations.

Is this just a fad? Will it last? That will come down to the category’s ability to keep consumer interest when the hot heat of the first waves of the trend begin to subside. Beyond the quality cues offered by vintages, single and specific harvests, brands will need to keep making the leap to sipping oil as seamless as possible if they are to encourage new consumers in. And continuing the strategy employed by the drinks industry, that means an investment in glassware and serves too.  We’ll raise a bespoke olive oil glass to that.

Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?

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