What’s in our Supermarkets: Moro vs Cobram Estate Classicadmin | June 10, 2012
I’ve always found it irritating when people compare the quality of extra virgin olive oils that vary greatly in price. I’ve frequently seen inexpensive high volume $10/L supermarket oils compared with some $150/L oil from a little family owned estate making a couple of hundred litres. It’s not surprising that the boutique oil often come up trumps. But then again it’s unlikely that the average American, Australian or German family shopper will entertain the idea of forking out $30 or $40 for a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil regardless of how good it is.
So here I’ve stuck to comparing two top selling Australian supermarket oils with equivalent price-tags. One a Spanish oil and the other Australian.
In a boxing parody I’m comparing the oils round by round, firstly using the important chemistry aspects of the oils – free fatty acidity for general quality, oxidation status, and finally the important taste test.
So let the challenge begin:
In the Clear corner and coming in at $12.78 per litre is the Spanish oil Moro.
In the Green corner with a slight price disadvantage at $13.30 per litre is the Cobram Estate Classic.
Here’s the call of the tape:
Proudly sponsored by “Absorbance at 232 – Your measure of primary oxidation”.
The lower the number the better. International Olive Council upper limit for EVOO: 2.50
Cobram Classic: 1.32 def. Moro : 1.73
First round goes to the Cobram Estate Classic without breaking into too much of a sweat.
This round sponsored by “Absorbance at 270 – your measure of secondary oxidation”
The lower the number the better. International Olive Council upper limit for EVOO: 0.20
Cobram Classic: 0.085 def. Moro: 0.180
Cobram easily takes round 2.
The next round is an important one. The Moro is showing its age compared to the younger Cobram contender. The next round will show more about the overall class of the contenders.
The Major Sponsor of the Night…. “Free Fatty Acid – we tell you what you want to know”
FFA is an overall quality measure of the soundness of the olives prior to processing, amount of time between picking and processing into oil, and in the overall care taken in processing. The lower the percentage the better: The International Olive Oil Council limit for EVOO is an insanely high 0.8%. If you got into the ring with that amount of excess weight you would be pummeled by the contenders that are popping up all over the place from Australia, the US and Chile. However, the world governing body seems blind to the message that fat and old can’t win.
Cobram Classic: 0.25% def. Moro: 0.44%
The round was shorter than the 3 minutes that it takes to measure FFA. An easy round win for the Australian. At an incredibly buff 0.25% FFA at this level of competition gave the comparatively flabby European little chance.
The Governing body in the EU should review this policy before anyone else gets hurt!
The taste round
Round 1 and 2 saw a relatively tired contender come out against a fresher opponent, and it showed. Round 3 showed the new world contender has had some good preparation coming into the bout. But like in all contests, who ultimately wins gets down to overall class. It’s not the first time that an older flabbier opponent has handed out a knockout punch when it matters. Will it happen in the ‘all important’ final round?
Ding… The Conquistador comes out emblazened in brightly coloured red and yellow shorts and Olive oil of Spain across its back. The Murray Mauler who in a less traditional Mardi Gras inspired purple and gold strip comes out swinging with a burst of good fresh Tomato like Picual aroma. The Spaniard tries to counter-punch with its own version of a riper tropical Picual character, but doesn’t make much of an impression on the fitter opponent. Once again being picked early and fighting while young is making it difficult for the older contender to come up with any scoring punches. The Murray Mauler throws out a few jabs of pungency. I think that surprised the Spaniard. Once again the Spaniard has no answer to the more fiery opponent. A bitter uppercut by Cobram misses the mark, but the Spaniard doesn’t even bother attempting this more technical move. It’s getting close to the end of the round. The Spaniard is looking tired and is not putting up much resistance against what looks to be a much younger opponent. The referee is looking concerned. Yes, he’s waved it away…. The clear corner is incensed. We could go at least another 20 rounds they are shouting. But it’s all over,
The Aussie contender wins all rounds and by a unanimous points decision
The Moro oil was pretty typical of EU imported oils that are found on supermarket shelves in Australia and the US – ripe, sweet fruit flavours and low bitterness and pepperiness. While not being the worst of what I have tasted of EU offerings taken from Australian supermarket shelves, the oil did seem flat and greasy. In comparison, the Cobram oil was fresher and more vital. While the chemistry of the Moro was at the better end of the other EU oils that I have reviewed. For example, at 0.44% acidity, it was at the upper end of the FFA’s of Australian produced supermarket oils, but in this instance it was clearly inferior to its equivalently priced Australian made competitor.
Labelling High-lights and Low-lights
While it was pleasing to see that the Moro oil had its country of origin clearly stated (both as a sticker on the front label and officially on the back label as “Product of Spain”), the lack of any best by date is completely unacceptable. It shows a disregard for consumers. Given that the best by date is the only possible way in which a consumer can even vaguely assess the age of the oil that they are buying, the lack of such information is in my opinion unforgivable. Even though the best by date only tell you when the oil was bottled not when it was actually produced, this total lack of transparency takes fresh food labeling to a new low. The supermarket chain who I purchased this oil from, who calls themselves the “Fresh Food People”, need to appreciate that extra virgin olive oil has no preservatives and is therefore a perishable product. It is best when fresh, so they should mandate a best by date on this and every other extra virgin olive oil they stock.
The Moro oil also prominently stated that it was Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but directly underneath that in smaller font was stated “100% Pure”. Pure olive oil is a marketing term used by EU producers for a refined olive oil with a little virgin oil added to it. For decades, the use of the word ‘Pure’ has caused significant confusion in the marketplace. It doesn’t help when producers/importers of extra virgin olive oil give the terms Extra Virgin and Pure on the same label particularly when one term is given directly below the other. The new Australian standards prohibit the use of the term Pure even in refined oils which suggests a complete disregard for the National standards of the country which they trade in. The Australian standards are voluntary, but significant and open industry consultation occurred with both domestic producers and importers. So apart from the clear country of origin statement, the Moro label was disappointing to say the least.
Packaging High-lights and Low-lights
Once again it was disappointing to once again see an EU extra virgin olive oil packaged in clear glass. It seems incongruous that the back label informs consumers to store the oil in a dark place, yet clear glass is chosen for the packaging material. The dark green Cobram bottle sends a message to consumers that exposure to light should be avoided. So why are so many imported supermarket oils packaged in clear glass? One theory is that oils sell better when in clear glass compared with dark glass. Once again the new Australian standards include provisions that the best by date take into account the packaging material.
The Cobram oil had an inbuilt plastic pourer that popped up once the metal cap was removed. It was a bit of a “Jesus closure” though, as once the metal cap seal was broken and unscrewed, the pop up pourer ‘excitingly’ erected itself, causing the metal cap to launch it partly across the room with simultaneous shouts of “Jesus, where did that go?” But once you found the cap and were aware that the pop up pourer can act as a cap propulsion device as well as a useful pourer, all was well. Overall the pourer is a great consumer innovation, and was (may I say) a pleasantly salubrious one for a product at this price. “I’m excited” is a suggested advertising slogan for this pourer.
Given that the two oils are within 50c per litre or so in price, the Cobram oil had a much lower FFA, better oxidation indices and had more olive character and tasted fresher. On all counts measured, it was the superior oil.
As with all my reviews, while the chemical indices were measured with care, they are not to be interpreted as official measures. The sensory assessments represent a personal evaluation and interpretation.