How a small business captivates customers through interactive shopping: (hint) Taste tests

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The wedding gift that sparked gourmet olive and vinegar retail store All of Oils.

Consuming organic olive oil is known to have many benefits. According to the MayoClinic, olive oil may help:

  • reduce cholesterol
  • stabilize blood sugar levels and insulin
  • normalize blood clotting

However, olive oil consumption is not normally associated with sparking business ventures. The wedding gift that became a retail business That’s what happened, however, when newlyweds Glenn Pineau and Kimm Brickman-Pineau cracked open a wedding present from Glenn’s sister. Inside was an organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar kit that came from Veronica Foods, a California company that imports more than one million gallons of premium extra virgin olive oil into the United States every year. Kimm says that the olive oil flavor that changed their lives was blood orange. “We feasted on it,” she says. Serendipity kicked in. At that time, several factors were in motion.

  • Glenn was exiting the film industry and looking for a new opportunity
  • The couple could not stop raving about the tasting kit
  • Glenn’s sister joked about Kim and Glenn going into the organic olive oil and vinegar business

Just 227 days later, Glenn and Kimm opened All of Oils, a high-end extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar retailer in South Surrey. The store is part of a growing retail boom of olive oil and vinegar stores appearing across the Lower Mainland within the last year.

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Glenn demonstrates the finer points of pouring.

Industry education Having developed a taste for the olive oil and vinegar industry, Glenn and Kimm connected with Veronica Foods. They were soon immersed in the industry. They read, researched and traveled to California for extensive training. Education is an important factor in the extra virgin olive oil industry. There are many fraudulent claims about quality of oil and health benefits as well as unethical pricing. Educating both retailers and consumers is an important part of the business. One of the additional products that Glenn and Kimm sell is the book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. What makes for gourmet olive oil? Glenn raved about the process that Veronica Foods follows, which is part of the best practices set out by the International Olive Council. The steps include:

  • Chemical analysis by two independent labs
  • Tasting by a panel of professional olive oil tasters
  • Proper storage and handling (no sunlight please, that’s why the All of Oils tasting room is filled with stainless steel canisters)

The final test takes place in the tasting room. Consumers can taste dozens of different kinds of olive oils and balsamic vinegar flavours. “You don’t have to take my word for it,” Glenn says. “You can taste for yourself.” I did. Kimm poured me a mixture blended with soda water. She pointed out that it tasted like an Italian soda, “minus the sugar and with calcium and magnesium.” Ambiance of an oil and vinegar tasting room I sipped the drink and sat on the couch. Kimm and Glenn spoke to customers. They helped people taste various flavours and went about the business of educating consumers. Around me were olive green walls. A soaring ceiling with a gorgeous chandelier. The art gallery style lighting made for a relaxing atmosphere. I felt like I was at a wine tasting.

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Kimm shows off some popular olive oil products.

Like a winery, tasting are available. Kimm and Glenn have also posted online cooking lessons. Stop by for a chat and to taste some of the finest olive oil and vinegar in South Surrey. P.S. Guess what the best sellers are? Persian Lime extra virgin olive oil and (what else?) blood orange. All of Oils is located at 160-2940 King George Blvd. Tasting room hours are Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday from Noon to 6:00 p.m. P.S.S. Know of a stand out product, service or business in the Greater Vancouver area that begs to be blogged about? Pitch it to me at amy@standoutnow.ca.

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