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Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan was one of the early adopters when extra virgin olive oils began to be marketed nationally in the 1980’s.  Boosted by the necessity occasioned by the pandemic, in recent years, they pursued a strategy of virtual olive oil tastings to support their online business.

In the hope of encouraging more companies to do the same, we asked Zingerman’s to share their secrets of success. The NAOOA believes that bringing education about olive tasting to consumers is one of the best ways to grow an appreciation for extra virgin olive oils and grow consumption.   According to Jennifer (Hall) Santi, ZIngerman's Marketing and Communications Manager, here's how Zingerman's makes the case for virtual tastings:

Holding olive oil classes and tasting events here at Zingerman’s Deli is an important part of what we do, and has been for decades now. And while we still love hosting events in person, over the last few years, we’ve come to realize the power of virtual events, too. Currently, we have a much higher demand for virtual events than in-person ones and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. So, we wanted to share a little bit about why we love the ability to host virtual olive oil tastings, what we teach in these tastings, and a few suggestions for making it a success.

Why Virtual?

Virtual events are a fabulous way to offer a flavorful experience to guests wherever they are. Our goal is for guests to learn about olive oil and have fun doing it, and sometimes it’s easier for all of us to be open to learning new things when we’re comfortable—like in our own homes. 

Virtual classes also eliminate a number of potential accessibility barriers, allowing us to teach and inspire a wider audience—and as a bonus, those guests can connect with fellow olive oil lovers from all over! Our class sizes are limited, just like they would be for in-person events, so we can still give personalized attention and answer any and all questions that come up. 

What We Cover in a Class

Olive oil tastings provide a great way for guests to sample a variety of oils, giving them a better understanding of what they personally enjoy in an olive oil.  We find it helpful to start with an “Olive Oil 101” presentation in which we do a deep dive into the history of olive oil and the basics of making olive oil. And we guide the guests through the process of tasting the oils. It is true that there’s a lot to know about olive oils, but we want to help guests realize they don’t have to be an expert to be able to find a bottle they enjoy.

Virtual Event Logistics

Hosting virtual events is a great way to share food knowledge at a variety of price points, again, making them more accessible to a wider range of guests. We have found it helpful to offer tickets at two price points for our virtual olive oil classes. The first, lower-priced, option includes a Zoom meeting link, an evening of learning with our tasting experts, a class workbook, and a coupon to use at our online shop after the event. The second, higher-priced, option includes everything in the first option, along with a tasting kit. The kit includes multiple samples of olive oils and bread or crackers. We offer multiple ways for folks to get these kits: local pickup, local delivery, or sent by mail anywhere in the U.S. (We offer the ability to add on extra tasting kits, so a household is just paying once for Zoom access, but can have multiple people tasting at that location.)  

Opportunities to be Creative

We also host private virtual events, allowing guests to create a custom virtual olive oil tasting experience and tailor the event to meet their specific needs and their budget. This is a great way to connect folks across the country; we’ve hosted virtual events for everything from holiday celebrations and birthday parties to recruiting events and team building. Whatever the reason for gathering a group, offering a virtual olive oil tasting is almost certain to be the most fun they’ve ever had learning something new. 
Hopefully this overview of why we’re hooked on virtual olive oil tastings, what we teach, and a few of the logistics for them helps inspire you to host your own virtual tastings. They’re a fun and flavorful way to introduce others to the wonderful world of olive oils!

For consumers looking for virtual olive oil tastings, of course, Zingerman’s is not the only game in town. Use your search engines to find virtual tastings across the metaverse!  
In fact, NAOOA is considering whether to conduct our own virtual tastings. If you would be interested, let us know by filling out the interest form below.

Virtual Oilve Oil Tasting Interest Form


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