Fruits of victory: Slope specialty olive shop triumphs over Big Olive Oil in suit

Justice is poured: O Live Brooklyn owner Greg Bernarducci celebrated his legal victory over a national olive-oil trade association with some of his finest “Ultra Premium” olive oil.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This shop is O Live and well!

A Park Slope purveyor of fine olive oils triumphed in a David-versus-Goliath legal battle against a national association of other liquid-fat merchants, according to the shop’s owner, who boasted of his victory after being sued for claiming his specialty cooking products are superior to cheaper, grocery-store varieties.

“We fought against the big guy and we won,” said Greg Bernarducci, who owns O Live Brooklyn on Fifth Avenue between Sterling and St. Johns places.

The New Jersey-based North American Olive Oil Association — which represents companies that produce 55–60 percent of all olive oil sold in the country, according to court documents — filed suit against the fruit-fat seller, its supplier Veronica Foods Company, and several other New York State purveyors of the Mediterranean pantry staple in federal court last year.

Lawyers for Big Olive Oil accused O Live Brooklyn of false advertising for marketing its California-sourced products’ health benefits — chiefly, a lower risk of heart disease — as far superior to those of less expensive varieties typically found at grocers such as Key Food and C-Town.

The suit also alleged that the local olive shop’s products’ “Ultra Premium” designation — a label only applied to items sold through Veronica Foods — is a self-invented moniker that dupes consumers into buying more of that distributor’s oils because it implies the goods are certified by an independent party.

But Bernarducci and his fellow defendants stood by their $20 bottles, insisting the oil within is held to a higher standard and that there is nothing illegal about promoting the benefits of the so-called premium California-made cooking compliment, the shopkeeper said.

“We’re trying to help people know what good olive oil tastes like,” Bernarducci said.

The olive-oil trade association ultimately lost the case because it had no right to sue on behalf of its various clients, according to Judge Arthur Spatt, who said the group had no evidence to prove the oil shillers it reps were “uniformly harmed” by the defendants’ claims.

Spatt’s decision still allows the association’s individual clients to sue O Live Brooklyn, however, and the group’s executive director hinted that lawyers are searching for strategies to silence the local olive hawker.

“We disagree strongly with the conclusion and are considering all options at this point,” said Joseph Profaci.

But Bernarducci’s attorney said his client is not bruised by the prospect of future litigation, because his specialty liquid-fat is as life-enhancing as he claims it to be.

“It’s possible for individual members to sue, but in my opinion it’s unlikely,” said Richard Shurin. “When you look at the merits of the case, I think all the statements made are in fact true.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
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