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Fairfield County's olive oil boom

Updated 10:25 am, Monday, October 7, 2013
  • Olive Oil of New Canaan is one of three specialty olive oil stores that have taken root in Fairfield County in the last two years. Sept. 29, 2013. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods
    Olive Oil of New Canaan is one of three specialty olive oil stores that have taken root in Fairfield County in the last two years. Sept. 29, 2013. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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New store in town
For more on New Canaan Olive Oil, see the Business page, A12.
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The latest addition to Elm Street, New Canaan Olive Oil, is one of many olive oil specialty stores that have planted themselves in Fairfield County as part of a larger fad slowly taking root.

"I think the trend has to do with a couple things," New Canaan Olive Oil owner Heidi Burrows said. "There is a movement for people to eat cleaner, and olive oil fits into that category. It's a good time to get into the business because people are finally learning about it. Once you get people in here, they have a lot of fun being able to try everything."

Burrows said she got the idea for the store after her husband saw a similar one open in a mall in Virginia.

Dash `N Drizzle, an olive oil and spice store, opened in Fairfield in June, after owner Jeff Love saw similar stores in other upper-income towns. He predicted more would open in the area in the next two to three years.

"I'd seen a couple (olive oil stores) in other, more touristy towns, and loved the concept and thought it would be a great thing to bring to Fairfield," Love said. "You have a lot of people here with culinary taste and healthy eating. It's a good fit."

The Mediterranean diet has grown in popularity as a healthy regimen in recent years. The diet features reduced consumption of red meat, more fish and the replacement of butter with olive oil. According to the Mayo Clinic, a study showed the diet could reduce heart disease and strokes by 30 percent.

One reason olive oil specialty stores may be on the rise is because a lot of what is sold as extra virgin olive oil is, in fact, cut with less-expensive oils, Love said. Discerning consumers who don't trust what they buy in a supermarket might be more likely to have confidence in the oil from a specialty store.

"Quality olive oil can be hard to come by, and it's easy for people to sell olive oils that are not high quality, like grocery stores," he said. "It's also typically difficult for a grocery store to carry 50 kinds of olive oils and balsamic vinegars."

Alina Lawrence, the owner of the Darien-based Olivette, said the problem of fake olive oil is a severe one.

"I have a mission to provide education and high quality to my customers and to help expose the fraud that's been perpetrated in almost every single olive oil store out there," she said.

Lawrence is critical of not only supermarkets, but also other olive oil specialty stores.

"The trend is there, the problem is who sells what. ... Anyone can sell a rock and call it gold. It's about making sure your consumer should know what to look for."

Lawrence said she has the date the oil was crushed printed on the bottle, rather than a sell-by one.

She also includes the chemical information of the oil on the bottle. True extra virgin olive oil, she said, must have lower than 0.4 percent acidity and must pass an official taste test.

One thing all the stores can agree on: Business has been smooth so far.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews