I love introducing female founded brands to my readers here on The Avid Pen, and today I have a special treat for you. I’m sure many of you have seen Brightland Co. olive oils via Instagram and on various feeds of foodies and content creators, and in today’s interview, Founder and CEO Aishwarya Iyr is giving an inside look into everything Brightland.
One of the many things I love about the Brightland is that the olives are not only grown and produced right here in the US but they also add the perfect touch of flavor to even the simplest of dishes. In this interview Aishwarya shares not only about when she first came up with the idea for the brand, but also her favorite ways to pair each of the Brightland’s five olive oils and how as a founder she is working towards giving back to the communities around her.
When did you first come up with the idea to found Brightland?
After discovering that the majority of olive oil Americans consume is rotten, rancid or adulterated, I felt this strong need to do something about it. While I don’t have a background in the culinary space, I couldn’t ignore the feeling. The urgency only deepened after I relocated from New York to Los Angeles four years ago. I founded Brightland in 2018 with the intention of championing transparency in the consumer goods space with an American-made olive oil (ours is produced in California) that also shines a light on the importance of knowing where your olive oil is coming from, how it’s produced and vital information such as the harvest date. The bottle design was also crafted for functionality and aesthetics – the opaque bottle keeps the oil fresher and the label was envisioned to celebrate the spirit of California. It’s become a cornerstone of the brand and I love seeing fans displaying their bottles on their countertops and tables.
Where in California are the Coratina and Frantoio olives used in your olive oils grown?
We are fortunate to work with an incredible family-run olive farm in California’s Central Coast. They have a certified organic mill and master miller on-site, so we are able to stay really close to the process to create our custom Brightland blends.
I’ve always preferred olive oil over other oils in cooking, for superior taste etc. Tell us about some of the health benefits of using olive oil versus other cooking oils?
High-quality, fresh olive oil is rich in polyphenols which are micronutrients packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that can support overall health. The higher the polyphenol count, the more nutritious the oil. Extra virgin olive oil is a great way to deliver fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients while cleansing us of fat-soluble toxins, and there are reported beauty benefits such as improved complexion, glowing hair and eyes, etc. Many of our customers will take a shot daily to maximize the benefits.
Why did you select Coratina and Frantoio olives in particular (do they grow particularly well in California, have superior taste etc)?
We work closely with our farm partner to identify the best California-grown olives for our custom blends with a desired flavor profile in mind. Our AWAKE features heirloom Arbequina olives, so the end result is very complex and herbaceous for cozy dishes, and our ALIVE is blend of Arbequina and Arbosana for a nuttier, fruity profile that’s great for salads and vegetables. We use our Frantoio olives in our LUCID (lemon olive oil), ARDOR (chili olive oil), and ARISE (basil olive oil) as they are a great blending olive.
How long is the process from pressing the olives to creating the finished product?
The olives are harvested and milled/pressed once a year, in late October/early November; between harvest and milling, it’s a matter of hours, and then they get filtered and racked and are stored in airtight, temperature controlled rooms. We bottle batches at a time, to maintain and preserve as much freshness as possible.
Brightland currently has five olive oils (Ardor, Alive, Arise, Awake and Lucid) What are your favorite aspects about each of the olive oils?
I love that each has a distinct personality and spirit. There’s an intentionality about using the oils… on a cold night, I find myself reaching for AWAKE to make something that makes me feel cozy. When I’m craving vibrancy, I want to drizzle ALIVE over a big bowl of greens. The flavored olive oils in our Artist Capsule collection are similarly crafted with that mindset. Am I feeling fiery? ARDOR will capture that mood. Am I craving something with zest and verve? LUCID is my liquid sunshine. And our newest basil olive oil, ARISE, is a burst of spring in a bottle.
Do you currently have new olive oils that you plan to release in 2020?
We’re always considering new offerings that celebrate the spirit with which Brightland was founded, so stay tuned for updates in the weeks ahead!
Tell me about some of your favorite dishes that you like to create in your own kitchen using Brightland olive oils.
I’m a purist, so I gravitate toward pairing our olive oils with really simple ingredients and dishes that bring out the best in each. I have a sweet tooth so love drizzling ALIVE over dark chocolate with a pinch of salt, and AWAKE is really beautiful in a cacio e pepe. LUCID and ARISE are great as salad dressings, so I’m forever drizzling both over greens (sometimes together!). And ARDOR is fantastic as a finishing touch over soups and roasted vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
What is the best part about hearing feedback from your customers?
It’s incredibly gratifying to hear that our olive oil is bringing joy to our customers and inspiring them to create new dishes or use olive oil in ways they never expected before.
This April you collaborated with three artists (BD Graft, Marleigh Culver and Peter Som) for The Artist Capsule Series which merges art with food and with every purchase Brightland has donated 50 meals through the non-profit Feeding America which supports food banks nationwide. What is the best part about being able to give back during these uncertain times?
I founded Brightland with the mission to inspire change, so giving back to causes such as Feeding America and, most recently, Soul Fire Farm, a BIPOC-centered community farm that is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system, is a core part of identity. While we are still a small company, I couldn’t imagine not using our resources and platform to shed light on the issues and organizations that need support right now.