Restaurateur Column | Former M&A Exec. Now Helping Lexington Acquire Appreciation for Fine Olive Oil


Lexington, KY – A new specialty retailer in Lexington brings a new focus on quality in an interesting food product niche. Stuarto’s Olive Oil Company (http://www.stuartos.com), located in Hamburg, specializes in imported extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, specialty oils and other related products. The company stocks its inventory from an ever-evolving supply chain that includes award winning artisan and small-run producers from around the world.
When you walk into the store your eye is drawn to walls lined with steel canisters containing an array of options among freshly tapped olive oils and balsamic vinegars. There are usually more than 30 variations and the selection is always changing.
Related locally produced products can be purchased here including fresh pasta from Lexington Pasta. Stuarto’s products are also used by many local and regional restaurants.
This venture is the latest business journey in a lifetime full of ventures and business deals for owner and founder Stuart B. Utgaard.
Utgaard spent most of his career doing merger and acquisition work for various company’s, became involved in the Sportsman Warehouse concept and eventually began thinking about a new business concept.
He began researching the olive oil and balsamic vinegar niche and decided to open Stuarto’s Olive Oil Company. He believes this is a solid, quality-oriented niche business that has potential scaleability as a chain once the Stuarto’s concept is fully evolved and refined.
The store uses a sophisticated point of sale system to track numerous aspects of the business. Internet sales are steadily increasing with orders coming in from 49 states.
Recently certified as a Kentucky Proud Value Added Processor, Stuarto’s offers two primary product categories: extra virgin olive oils, and balsamic vinegars. Its useful to discuss each category separately as well as to consider the many complementary traits among these products.
Olive oil has been an important dietary staple for centuries, turning up in human history and development in numerous ways.
According to Greek mythology, the olive was one of two gifts the goddess Athena gave to her people (the other being wisdom). Olive oil is an important component of the Mediterranean diet which many health professionals believe is much healthier than the American and North European diets.
The health benefits from olive oil are many with respected research indicating positive impacts against coronary disease, cancers, arthritis, digestive health, and diabetes. These benefits are derived from a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids combined with high levels of antioxidant substances. Olive oil is also the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is (freshly pressed from the fruit). Stuarto’s carries extra virgin olive oils, produced in the first pressing of the olives. As the least processed, extra virgin oils maintain more health benefits than products subjected to additional processing.
For each of the olive oil products featured at Stuarto’s there is a small sign or chart which indicates that product’s rating or score on several attributes according to standards established by the International Olive Oil Council. They include free fatty acid, oleic acid, and polyphenols.
A great way to integrate olive oil into the diet is to begin substituting it for butter and margarine. Stuarto’s offers a handy butter-to-extra virgin olive oil conversion chart customers can take home and reference.
Occupying another wall at Stuarto’s is a line of balsamic vinegars. Balsamic is an aged aromatic vinegar, derived from the concentrated juice of white grapes. Its uses are diverse and include seasoning, marinades, and as a salad dressing. A great way to cut fat in the diet is to substitute balsamic vinegar for mayonnaise-based salad dressings. Balsamic vinegar offers health benefits relating to heart disease, cancer, inflammatory conditions, metabolism, fatigue, bone strength and diabetes .
Both of Stuarto’s product categories taste great and have health benefits which when combined or paired make for a tasty and healthy one-two punch. Utgaard makes this easier for you by providing an Oil & Vinegar Pairing Menu for a wide range of food production and dining occasions. A nice salad dressing can, for example, be made by paring any EVOO (extra virgin oil oil) with a flavored Balsamic such as Pomegranate, Grapefruit White or Black Cherry. Or, try Blood Orange EVOO and Fig Balsamic over Salmon.
This locally owned business is located at 2200 War Admiral Way, Suite 165, near Smashing Tomato.

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