Graza cofounder Andrew Benin doesn’t want you to be precious about his brand’s extra-virgin olive oil, but he does want you to appreciate it. Since launching in January, Graza has been winning people over with its playful squirt-bottle packaging, and turning them into loyal fans with the quality of the oil inside.
Graza’s cleverly named duo of extra-virgin olive oils—Sizzle, for cooking, and Drizzle, for finishing—come in packaging that stands out amid the usual green-hued glass bottles. Both Sizzle’s tall, 750-ml bottle and Drizzle’s more squat 500-ml bottle are made of matte green plastic with a tip that looks like it was stolen from a bottle of Sriracha.
And while it’s a differentiator, the packaging is only the beginning for Graza. The oil is the real star. Both Sizzle and Drizzle are sourced from Andalusian Picual olives. The ones that are picked and pressed for Drizzle are young and green, while the ones used for Sizzle are about a month more mature, giving their oil a milder flavor and high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking.
“Picual is an amazing varietal,” Benin says, adding that in Spain, Picual oils are widely consumed locally, but only make it to the U.S. as part of an oil blend. “I’d say before our business, it was really difficult to find 100% Picual [oil] in North America, just because there’s such a massive demand for it domestically [in Spain] because they know what the hell the good stuff is.”
Benin came up with the idea of making high-quality olive oil more accessible and appealing to Americans after spending time in Spain with his wife’s family. “Living in Spain for three years and watching my wife’s mother cook so liberally and without doubt with olive oil, I was like ‘Holy moly, what’s going on here?’”
While he knows Graza’s oils aren’t the cheapest on the market—the variety pack with both Sizzle and Drizzle costs $35; individual bottles start at $15 each—Benin didn’t want to resort to blending varietals to lower the price. Instead, his focus is on marrying value and quality. “It’s the same as real orange juice versus orange juice from concentrate,” he says, adding that his bottles—stamped with the olives’ harvest and packaging dates—go a long way toward his secondary goal of making people want to use the oil.
“We didn’t launch with a mission statement, but it’s become ‘made to be used,’” he says. “[The packaging] helps in so many different ways, because it’s like soft behavior change,” he says. “People are just more likely to pick it up and use it.”
It helps that the olive oil is very good. When I first opened my bottle of Drizzle, I was struck by its smell. Vegetal and bright, it has stolen the show in everything I’ve used it in. It’s added body to vinaigrettes, punched up both frozen and fresh pizza, and enriched a baba ghanoush recipe that I’ll never again make with the stuff from Wegmans. I’ve also taken to adding it to popcorn with some cracked pepper and Parmesan for a play on cacio e pepe.
Sizzle has been great for sautéing and more all-purpose uses (the only thing I haven’t used it for is super high-heat wok cooking). While flavor isn’t its main draw, I’ve noted its presence when using it to cook eggs, and I’m not complaining. As for the squirt bottle, it does make using it easier.
From what Benin says, I’m not the only one who’s been impressed by Graza. Since its January launch, the company has brought in about $500,000 in sales. And while it got its start as a direct-to-consumer brand, Benin is eyeing a wider retail presence. Some 50 boutiques already stock it—including Chicago-based Foxtrot, which also has locations in D.C., Dallas, and Virginia. Benin says his brand may be in 1,500 stores by the end of the year.
Graza has also built its recognition without any formal ad spend, Benin says, relying on word of mouth. He’s waiting until he has more supply to really focus on marketing. “We’ve been selling out left and right,” he says. “We’ve been scared that if we open the spigot, we won’t be able to close it.”
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