Olive Oil Feud: The Social Media Spat Between Graza and Brightland

Olive Oil Feud: The Social Media Spat Between Graza and Brightland

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not in the world of start-ups.

There was drama this week in the olive oil business — and it unfolded on LinkedIn, the online haven of start-up feuds, oversharing and self-mythologizing thanks to #founder culture.

An angry post by olive oil entrepreneur Andrew Benin caused a stir in a small corner of the internet foodie world because it raised a slippery question: Who owns the squeeze bottle?

Mr. Benin is the chief executive and co-founder of GrazaA direct-to-consumer start-up Launched in 2022 Which sells olive oil in squeezable, forest-green plastic bottles designed for optimal drizzling and Instagramming. Whole Foods sells it, Bon appetit gave it a rave and Food & Wine Magazine It’s called “Cool Kid Olive Oil”. As wall street journal Noted this year, Graza hit the “sweet spot” in the market with its two bottles of extra-virgin olive oil, Drizzle ($20) and Sizzle ($15).

After quality and shipping issues last holiday season, Benin apologized to more than 30,000 customers in an unusually heartfelt and detailed email. That sentiment, along with a post on Graza’s blog (“glog,” as the company calls it), painted a picture of an enthusiastic founder.

Then, as he wrote this week LinkedIn, he faced “#copycat culture”. In the post, he singled out a competitor’s new olive oil, which is also packaged in a squeeze bottle and marketed as something to drizzle on pizza.

“While friendly competition was always welcomed, I view this as a gross disrespect and am choosing to voice my dissent,” Mr Benin wrote. He tagged the company, brightland, and included a photo of its founder, Aishwarya Iyer, and the squeeze bottle in question. “#Founders know this day will come,” he wrote, adding, “Personally, I think it’s okay to be offended when people rip you off.”

Graza’s founder’s bone of contention: Brightland Pizza Oil.Credit…via Brightland

Some Twitter users said Mr Benin’s post started an “olive oil war”, but it should be noted the controversy was one-sided. Ms Ayer and Brightland have not spoken publicly about the call-out. (Brightland declined to comment for this article. Graza did not respond to requests for comment.)

The reception to Mr Benin’s post seemed mixed, with many comments on LinkedIn reprimanding him for stirring up unnecessary drama. “With all due respect, you didn’t make the squeeze bottle,” Alison Kane, founder of Heaven’s Kitchen, wrote. “Chefs and home cooks have been using it for decades.” general question section of Graza’s website says as much.

“Get used to it,” Ju Ryu, chief executive and co-founder of Hero Cosmetics, wrote in a tweet on what he called “olive oil copycat-gate.” She attached four photos of products that appeared to mimic products from her own company, the Mighty Patch.

“I guess it comes with the territory,” Ms. Ryu said. “It means you’re having some degree of success if there are imitators out there. It’s something we definitely try to defend against, but it’s not easy.

Ms. Rieu said she first learned about the olive oil debacle on LinkedIn.

“I thought it was bad form, calling out another founder who is an entrepreneur and really, in some ways, rekindles the category,” she said of Ms. Iyer naming Mr. Benin. , who founded Brightland in 2018. He added that the post was, in his view, an “overreaction”.

Mr Benin appeared remorseful at going after an opponent. Hours after his original statement, he posted a follow-up on LinkedIn that included an apology to Ms. Iyer and her team at Grazia. “I was heated, and reacted poorly, and learned from the wide variety of comments everyone left today,” he wrote.

For some online, the cold-pressed social media drama was a welcome distraction from more pressing concerns outside the artisanal olive oil niche community.

“Honestly god bless the olive oil war, this is exactly the kind of absurd startup-brain-worm low-stakes drama the world needs more of right now,” Tweeted Helen Rosner, a New Yorker staff writer who covers food. “No villains, no victims, just top notch public ego idiocy.”

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