Building a business is more an art than a science. That’s what made it attractive to Graza founder Andrew Benin. He wanted the opportunity to be creative and to use branding and messaging to connect with people he had never met. “This was my version of art,” he says.
So when Andrew discovered a passion for olive oil during a trip to Spain, he knew this was a product he could express his love for, which he did by selling single-origin olive oil back in the US.
Graza launched its Sizzle and Drizzle olive oils in 2022, and since then, the products’ green squeeze bottles have caught fire in the cooking world. Influencers, chefs, restaurants, and at-home cooks alike are fans of the brand. The company was even featured in Bon Appetit and The New York Times.
In some ways, Andrew says olive oil is a frictionless product—an easy sell. “This is in every single pantry. It has massive household penetration,” he says. But the company still had to cultivate a clear vision in a saturated market.
5 tips for branding an everyday product
Even though there are many olive oil brands available at grocery stores in the US, most customers didn’t have a strong brand affinity. “That was the opportunity to say, ‘Well, there’s a different way of doing this, a different way of positioning something that everyone already knows about,” Andrew says. Here’s how he and his team approached marketing for their cult-favorite pantry staple.
1. Get advice from your network
One of the first people Andrew asked for feedback was Mike Anthony, a chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York City. “He actually really helped with positioning Graza and said, ‘Do not start another gourmet food brand,’” Andrew says.
Andrew instead focused on making an affordable olive oil without compromising quality, and found there was a gap in the market between the expensive glass bottles with labels written in Italian and cheap, diluted olive oils.
2. Take consumer insights with a grain of salt
Andrew says he received pushback on the idea from friends, family, and investors. Some of the concerns from consumer research were misconceptions about the smoking point of olive oil and that Americans preferred to cook with more neutral oils.
But Andrew stayed true to his vision. “We’re going to sell what we like, not what we’re being told the consumer is asking for,” he says. And he let the sales and customers speak for themselves.
3. Work with a branding agency
Andrew credits Graza’s branding agency for being a key player in the creation process. “[We were] leaning heavily on our branding agency to pull everything out and help us put it back together,” he says.
The company landed on branding that was fun and joyful to make olive oil more approachable to the home cooks in its target audience.
4. Be patient for the inspiration to strike
Inevitably, some of the most iconic parts of a brand won’t come from a branding exercise. Andrew says you have to be patient for those aha moments.
“The squeeze bottle didn’t even come from years working in a restaurant,” Andrew says. “It actually happened in the shower.” While using a squeeze soap bottle, Andrew realized the same type of bottle, similar to the ones chefs used at restaurants, would be perfect for olive oil.
5. Dare to be different
“If something’s working in the marketplace, that means that everyone’s doing it,” Andrew says. And that can lead to homogeneity, with brands starting to look the same.
Graza was intentional in trying to be different in the many ways it communicated its brand, including on its website. “We had to be very confident in our perspective and not let best practices dictate how our site was going to be created, because that’s how we would just feel like everybody else,” Andrew says.
To learn more about how Andrew developed a passion for olive oil and founded Graza, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.