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Is imported better than local? Six things to look for when buying olive oil

The supermarket shelves may groan with this liquid gold but which one to buy can always be puzzling. Our food editor shares some top tips from the SA Olive industry

10 June 2021 - 07:45 By hilary biller
An image of a pizza with SA Olive Seal.
An image of a pizza with SA Olive Seal.
Image: Supplied

We used to think imported olive oil was the best buy but SA’s burgeoning olive industry means we have top quality extra virgin olive oil right on our doorstep and an imported product doesn’t necessarily mean it is a better olive oil.

In SA, olives ripen towards the end of summer and now that the new season olives have been picked and pressed, local bottled extra virgin olive oil is making its way onto the supermarket shelves and here’s what to look out for to make an informed decision when it comes to purchasing SA extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil checklist.
Olive oil checklist.
Image: Supplied


  • Check the name of the estate and the address to ensure it’s a local oil. The producer confirms that the contents are 100% South African.
  • The colour is not an indication of quality and will vary and no two oils will necessarily be alike. The colour is determined by an olive varietal, growing conditions and country of origin and can range from yellow to dark green.
  • The label will state if it is an extra virgin olive oil and the assurance is the SA Olive sticker on the bottle.
  • Cold Extraction on the bottle is the indication of the method of production which means no additional heat is used to extract the oil, retaining all the natural aromas, flavour, taste and antioxidants.
  • Most important for peace of mind of the quality of the olive oil is the SA Olive CTC seal which means the extra virgin olive oil is produced with a commitment to compliance as per SA Olive. Look out for the best before date on the bottle. Olive oil is good for about 18-24 months if stored in optimum conditions — a dark place, carefully capped and kept away from heat. Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age.
  • A good quality SA extra virgin olive oil will include a batch number on the bottle.