Costco Connection® - January 2019

Preserving Tradition

Traceability and tradition are essential to regional authenticity


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So many food products today are mass-produced, which is necessary to meet modern demands. But there’s a unique segment of products that are made in traditional ways—and indeed must meet certain standards of traceability and excellence before coming to market. Costco is proud to feature a number of these wonderful products from Europe, including extra virgin olive oils, cheeses and balsamic vinegar. Here’s a look.

Rakes are used to dislodge olives from the tree, which are then gathered up from a tarp on the ground to make Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Rakes are used to dislodge olives from the tree, which are then gathered up from a tarp on the ground to make Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Special designations

You may have seen these designations on packages: DOP, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin), and IGP, which stands for Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Protected Geographical Indication).

Both certifications are governed by a system of European Union (EU) rules designed to guarantee authenticity while protecting consumers and producers.

“Production is carried out according to product specifications of the DOP and it’s certified by an independent body,” says Chris Schaller, a Costco cheese buyer.

He gives the example of Kirkland Signature™ DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano. “The trademark Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be put on a cheese produced and processed in a small designated section of Italy to control quality and production size,” he says. “These rules require precise production methods, controlled feeding of the cows and qualitative selection and marking of the products.”

In the case of Parmigiano-Reggiano, following the traditional method of farming, the milk from the evening and morning milkings must be delivered in its whole, raw state. The milk from the morning milking is placed in copper vats and mixed with that from the evening milking along with rennet and salt, Schaller says. “The quality is dependent on the place of origin, the natural feed and the high-quality milk with no additives,” he explains. “During the long aging process, natural fermenting agents in the milk give the cheese its particular and unique flavor and texture.”

Another example is Kirkland Signature Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Luca Bombarda of Acetum SPA, the product supplier, says that very few quantities of aged balsamic vinegar are available on the market today.


“The Kirkland Signature brand is aged three years with special techniques, using nostalgic traditional procedures, which impart [to] the product its specific, magnificent features,” he explains.

Each bottle of Kirkland Signature balsamic vinegar is IGP certified by the EU consortium.

The authentication process

In an era when products are often imitated, the EU has implemented processes to ensure authenticity. Technology makes it possible to track every DOP and IGP product to its source and verify that it is authentically produced. Tracking systems in place for DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese include a pin-dot stamping system on every wheel of cheese, which verifies its production and aging details, and guarantees 100% percent authenticity.

On other items, such as extra-virgin olive oil, every bottle is stamped with a unique number that allows it to be identified and traced back to its place of origin and processing.

Costco has you covered

Costco corporate foods buyer Lucas Stanuch tells me of the steps that Costco buyers go through to ensure the authenticity and testing of DOP products. “In addition to the DOP certification and tracking process, we also pull random samples of every Kirkland Signature olive oil for further third-party testing, ensuring Costco members that what’s on the label is in the bottle.”

By providing these authentic products, Costco is also able to help preserve the traditions of the past for the world today and for future generations.


Made the authentic European way

Look for these products— sourced from Europe with DOP, IGP and DOCG designations— at your local warehouse and on

  • Kirkland Signature Tuscan Extra-Virgin Olive, Italian Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano Wedge and 72-pound wheel (all shown above)

  • Kirkland Signature Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano Shredded Cheese

  • Kirkland Signature Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese

  • Kirkland Signature Spanish Manchego Cheese

  • Kirkland Signature Asolo Italian Prosecco

  • Citterio Prosciutto di Parma

Label Love

The European Union uses specific symbols that allow consumers to identify protected names and processes. Product designations to look for:

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI): For agricultural products and foods linked to a geographical area where a minimum of one traditional production step has taken place in the process.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): For products with a strong link to a defined geographical area.

Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG): Used for Italian wines whose producers have followed the strictest regulations, along with a guarantee of geographic authenticity and quality.

Understanding each seal will help you to know more about the products you are buying and the unique differences in the contents of those products.—RA