The history of Pompeian is as rich and storied as the olive oils crafted by our family famers. While we were founded in Italy’s culinary region of Lucca, our brand name pays tribute to the ancient Roman city of Pompei, which is now a world UNESCO World Heritage site of great discovery and wonder. Legend has it that Pompei—with its volcanic-rich soil and excellent weather conditions—was the world’s most perfect environment for growing and farming olive trees.
THE LATE 1800s
The story of Pompeian begins in the late 19th century in Lucca, Italy, back when the region was becoming renowned for its cultivation of olive oil. Because Lucca was near the port of Genoa, it was an ideal international trading post, allowing for the export of Pompeian Olive Oil throughout the world. It soon became apparent that the sky was the limit… and deliciousness was the destination. Going our way?
The boom begins—big time. In the United States, Pompeian instantly appealed to the palettes of the burgeoning Mediterranean community, as well as Americans who were just beginning to discover olive oil’s vibrant flavor and culinary versatility. Before long, olive oil was officially a “thing.”
Following the groundswell of success in the United States, a young entrepreneur by the name of Nathan Musher purchased the Pompeian Olive Oil Company in 1906. He continued to produce olive oil in Italy and export the product to the United States. And to think the Pompeian story was only just beginning…
My, how we’ve grown. Pompeian’s warehouse in Baltimore quickly became the catalyst for our expansion. In the late 1920s, the Musher family ceased operations in Lucca due to rising turmoil in Europe, moving business to Baltimore, where olive oil craftsmen still bottle Pompeian today. It was official: Pompeian had found a new home.
THE 1930s AND 1940s
Another entrepreneurial family then joined the Pompeian story. In 1930, the Hoffberger family began leading the company, using their expertise in the food industry to expand the market for olive oil. This family of successful American entrepreneurs had a hand in several packaged goods companies. Oh, and they just so happened to own the Baltimore Orioles! Clearly, we were in good hands.
Under the direction of the Hoffbergers, Pompeian expanded nationally and became the first national olive oil brand. The company quickly established itself as a household name throughout America in the 1940s, where no home worth its salt (or worth its olive oil) would be found without a bottle of Pompeian somewhere in the kitchen.
And then, another exciting development: Pompeian expanded its reach further and wider when the company was acquired by the Moreno family of Spain in 1975.
The Morenos anticipated the emergence of the Mediterranean diet’s influence on the American palate. Owning the company ensured they could import the highest quality olive oil from the Mediterranean while ensuring the product met and exceeded all U.S. health and quality standards. In essence, Pompeian was providing the American consumer with the best possible olive oil. (We still are.)
As you are no doubt discovering, Pompeian has always had a knack for growing and evolving with the times. In 2004, the company began exclusively implementing the highest quality plastic packaging, thus significantly reducing shipping weight and emissions and improving the safety and protection of the olive oils, which are light and heat sensitive.
In 2009, the company was purchased by the Devico family of Morocco. The Devicos also happen to own Aicha, a leading Moroccan food brand. They have demonstrated a longtime passion for crafting exceptional olive oil, an expertise that has proven highly beneficial to the quality of the Pompeian brand in the United States. In fact, Pompeian EVOO was the first brand of olive oil to carry the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quality monitored seal and has never failed or missed one of the strict requirements or checkpoints set by the USDA or North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) Quality Seal Programs.
These are exciting times for Pompeian. In October 2017, our family announced a strengthened alliance with DCOOP Group of Spain, the largest olive oil cooperative in the world, signing a new agreement that increased the companies’ stakes in one another from 20 percent to 50 percent.
What’s more, Pompeian now has its very own U.S. olive farm - Sunrise Olive Ranch in California. This majestic farm is home to thousands of olive trees and spans 1,050 acres throughout Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. The Sunrise Olive Ranch features a mill equipped with the world’s most innovative technology available today and grows three varieties of olives, Arbosana, Arbequina, and Koroneiki, for our EVOO. We’re certain at least some of it will be popping up on your dinner table soon, no?
Our history has always been inspired by our farms and the families who tend to our land, our trees and our olives. Honoring their work, our passion and purpose are one in the same: to create the world’s best quality olive oil at the best possible price so everyone around the world can live and eat well. No matter what the future holds for Pompeian we can say that it’s sure to taste absolutely delicious. Now please pass the crudité.
Our history of olive oil
How much do you know about olive oil? Its history is nearly as rich and robust as the product itself, as anyone in our tight-knit family of farmers will tell you. (Don’t get them started on the subject unless you really want them to talk your ear off. You’ve been warned.) Real quick, here’s the overall gist: The oldest known record of olive oil’s existence was found on Crete, inscribed on earthenware tables that date back to 2500 B.C., during the reign of King Minos. (Incidentally, fossilized wild olives from prehistoric times have also been found in Andalusia, Spain.)
Thousands of years before Pompeian brought olive oil to American tables, olives played a vital role in Mediterranean lives—as fuel for lamps, ointments for wounds, and a handy lubricant to bring out the luster in woodwork and even shift stones on Egyptian pyramids. Because olive trees were so revered in the culture, the mighty olive branch became a long-lasting symbol of peace, a symbol that endures to this day.
As Romans conquered areas throughout the Mediterranean, they also cultivated the trees. Under the Roman empire, olive oil became one of the world’s first items of international trade. With Spain as its chief supplier, Rome shipped the precious cargo in earthenware amphorae to every part of its vast domain.
When Europeans came to the New World in the 1500s, they brought the olive tree with them, and it quickly flourished in South and Central America and eventually California. Some of these imported olive trees have grown for more than 400 years. Even more astonishing is the fact that botanists have found some olive trees in the Mediterranean that are over 1,000 years old. While an olive tree’s greatest period of fruit-bearing productivity is when the tree is between 35 and 150 years old, these ancient trees have provided the health benefits of olives to nearly 40 generations. And this is just one more reason you should always have a bottle of Pompeian in the pantry: You want to ensure you’re on the right side of history.
Our Making of olive oil
Pompeian Olive Oil is cold pressed from the sun-ripened fruit of olives harvested directly from the trees on our family farms. The character of any olive oil depends on many factors, including the type of olives, the soil and the climate and weather conditions at the time the olives are harvested.
In the summer months, the fruit of the olive is kissed by the sun, ripening from green to reddish violet to black in the fall. There are two harvests each year – one in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere, when our careful cultivation of the finest olives leads to the careful curation of the finest olive oils. Did you know it takes approximately 11 pounds of olives to make almost a liter of olive oil? The average tree yields enough olives to produce three to four liters per year, so don’t underestimate those guys, eh?
All farmer-crafted Pompeian EVOO is "First Cold Pressed,” which involves taking our freshly picked olives to a mill, where huge stone wheels or a stainless steel crusher grind the olive flesh and pits into a smooth, homogeneous paste at a low temperature to preserve the quality of the olive oil, thus releasing a mixture of oil and water when pressed. The water is removed by centrifugal force, yielding a fresh, authentic EVOO. Because the oil is of the highest quality and a natural “juice of olives,” it’s enhanced only by filtering in order to remove residual moisture and unwanted small particles of olive flesh or pit.
Additionally, this first cold pressing needs to have an acidity of less than 0.5 percent and meet strict quality standards to bear the label of Pompeian EVOO. It’s an olive oil with the rich, fresh, full-bodied flavor of the olive itself. To please a variety of palates, Pompeian produces a diverse array of olive oils: Robust EVOO, Smooth EVOO, Organic EVOO, Classic Olive Oil and Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil. Which one will you give a taste?
At Pompeian, our century of experience has helped us achieve consistently great taste and quality. We carefully monitor and craft our olive oil until it’s perfect. A little goes a long way, and a lot goes even further.