You may have noticed. We rang in 2011 with a new sleek, green bottle for the extra virgin olive oils produced from our fall harvest. The color and rectangular shape reflects hours of brainstorming as well as a desire to try something totally new in the olive oil business. The green rectangular bottle replaces the brown cylindrical bottles we once used.
The new bottle reflects a team effort. Our CEO, Gregg Kelley, and I worked closely with Ron Vandenberg and Kim Caruana of the crack design firm Berkeley Merchant, in Berkeley, Calif. The four of us spent many hours huddled in a room hashing out ideas and going over different bottle designs.
Ron is co-founder of Berkeley Merchant. Here’s the first of a two-part Q&A in which Ron gives his perspective on how the new bottle came about.
What was the inspiration behind the new bottle?
When we first got involved with designing it, we saw an opportunity to reinvent the olive oil category and Americanize it. We decided against doing what California’s wine industry did initially with its bottles, which was to mimic the bottles French, Italian and other European winemakers were using. We wanted to create a uniquely American approach to olive oil, instead of copying the Europeans.
All the bottles from Europe we looked at had a more female form: soft shoulders and more of an hourglass-like figure. They also didn’t have big spouts for pouring. We decided we’d do the opposite. When the new bottle stands on the shelf next to all the competitors, it looks completely different. It also feels beautiful in your hand.
Did you have any other U.S. companies in mind when you were designing the new bottle?
Starbucks is a uniquely American brand, and proudly so. Starbucks has its own take on every coffee drink. It’s a uniquely American coffee drinking experience. We decided we wanted to do for extra virgin olive oil what Starbucks has done for coffee. We wanted to be different from the Europeans in every way but one — the romance behind the growing of olives and the making of olive oil. We wanted the bottle to reflect that romance, but it would also reflect the romance of the American West.
How do you achieve that romantic western image?
The label on the new bottle dates back to the old label art on the crates of fruits and vegetables that came out of California’s Central Valley in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The companies employed the greatest artists of the time. The California Olive Ranch label also reflects an element of the famous artwork that emerged under the Depression-era federal art projects, like the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.).
In our case, we decided to make the olive rancher the hero. When you look at the new label, our iconic figure is the rancher with the heroic pose, as well as the big sky and the endless olive groves.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch