January 23, 2013: Olive Bars

We are all familiar with tastings at wine bars and liquor stores, and I can think of lots of other food and beverage items that would also lend themselves to the tasting concept. But cooking oil? While that may not be an obvious choice, don’t scoff. Olive oil “bars” are one of the newest food trends.

Just a few months ago I visited The Olive Bar in Campbell, California.  One wall of the store was lined with beautiful metal and pottery containers filled with different flavors of artisanal olive oils, a description of how they taste, suggested vinegars you could pair them with and other menu ideas.

This concept is taking off across the country. American Way magazine recently reported on olive oil bars in New York and Boston, and there are several scattered across the country as well. The Olive Bar also stocks high-quality coconut oil it imports through Alibaba.com and an assortment of kitchen décor, cookbooks and the like.

Olive oil has become very popular since the mid-1990s, partly because of the touted success of the Mediterranean diet, and the endorsement of the oil by doctors, nutritionists and even the federal government. The oil has also been promoted as a beauty aid.

Of course, if you open an olive oil bar, you and your employees need to be well-versed about the oil. There’s a lot of great information about olive oil, including a list of tasting bars.

This trend is just taking off, so you won’t encounter a lot of competition–yet. American Way calls the olive oil tasting bars “foodie bliss.” I call it a great new opportunity.