Skip to Content

Why is Zingerman’s So Expensive?

Why is Zingerman's So Expensive lg

If you’ve ever been to Ann Arbor, Michigan, a visit to Zingerman’s Deli is a must. But while they are known for amazing sandwiches and gourmet groceries, they aren’t known for being cheap. So why is Zingerman’s so expensive?

Here’s what I discovered:

Zingerman’s is expensive because it’s uncompromising about only using the highest quality ingredients in its products. They also bake their own bread and size their sandwiches larger than most. But as stated in their mission statement, they also like to generate a “healthy level of profit”.

It’s also an ethical producer and a model business.

They pay their employees an above-average wage, with good benefits and a profit-sharing plan. They are also very active in their community and basically want to wow everyone they deal with, from customers to employees, to suppliers.

The reality is that “better” means higher quality, right? Well, high quality isn’t cheap.

Let the fun begin…

Is Zingerman’s quality really worth it?

Zingerman’s quality is worth it. Zingerman’s products, quality, customer service, and business ethics are superior to most companies. They focus on “traditionally-made, hand-crafted foods”, including making their own bread, cheese, candy, and roasted coffee.

So, it’s a gourmet food business where quality is the top priority.

One of the things you’ll notice if you’re hip to the brand is that they’re upfront about the fact that offering high-quality products is one of their core values. In point of fact, I think they said their mission is to offer people better lives.

Inherent in the idea of “better” is higher quality. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of the brand: higher quality.

Of course, there’s no perfect brand. So, now and then, you’ll find a few people saying it’s not as awesome as it’s cracked up to be. That’s to be expected.

But, on the whole, Zingerman’s consistently gets 4 to 5-star ratings from regular everyday Americans. The brand is regarded as “an ethical producer and a model of progressive business.”

In addition to this, consider that Obama, Oprah, Jane Fonda, and Drew Barrymore are some of those who’ve praised the quality of Zingerman’s products.

Check out what Oprah wrote about its sandwiches: “Zingerman’s sandwiches are an 11 on a scale of 1 to 5.”

The reality is that quality is expensive, no matter how we slice it.

If we want a brand that offers excellent products, pays its employees well, has a great ambiance, and delivers products on the same day or a few hours after we’ve placed our orders, we’ll have to pay a premium.

Or the brand will die.

Does Zingerman’s use higher quality meats?

Zingerman’s uses the highest-quality meats, from pasture-raised pork to grass-fed beef. This is one of the reasons its products are expensive.

The meats are impeccably sourced and are painstakingly and perfectly cured.

One of the things the brand is praised for is its sandwiches. Take its corned beef, which it uses in its sandwiches. It’s sourced from United Meats. Why? Because United Meats is committed to the highest quality.

In a column, GREAT AMERICAN BITES, in, we read:

“Zingerman’s Deli is arguably the most famous sandwich shop in the country that is not located in New York City. Great American Bites visited this temple of sandwiches last year, and found out why it has been wildly popular and repeatedly expanded ever since opening its doors in 1982: they use only the very best ingredients from start to finish, including some of America’s most delicious breads, numerous varieties, all baked from scratch.”

Now, let’s hear from the horse’s mouth.

Ari Weinzweig is one of the founders and also happens to be the partner of an old friend of mine. Ari wrote:

“Good corned beef has been at the core of our work at Zingerman’s since we opened our doors in 1982! It’s been cured for us to Sy Ginsberg’s recipe for over 36 years now. Long, slow cooking makes for that really tender, mouthwatering texture. And our corned beef hash? We’ve been making it for so long I can’t really even remember at what point it became a ‘Zingerman’s classic.’ But I do know that it is one!”

The last quote I’ll share is from a scholar.

“I feature Zingerman’s in my MBA and Executive courses as the business model of the future. If you seek greatness, you have to read how Zingerman’s does it.”

Wayne Baker, Ross School of Business at University of Michigan

How do Zingerman’s prices compare to Whole Foods?

Whole Foods is approximately 4% more expensive than Zingerman’s. It’s no longer as expensive as it used to be before Amazon bought them, but when comparing the exact same items, they do cost slightly more at Whole Foods.

Here are a few examples of the price differences between the two:

Item Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor Zingerman’s
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese $20.99 per pound $20 per pound
La Quercia Prosciutto $13.99 for 2 ounces $12.00 for 2 ounces
Organic All-Purpose Flour (house brand) $5.39 for a 5lb bag $6.00 for a 2.5 lbs bag
Organic Earl Grey Tea $6.99 for 1.32 oz. $15.00 for 2.82 oz.

But honestly, it’s hard to make a direct price comparison as Zingerman’s mostly carries smaller, lesser-known, gourmet producers that you aren’t likely to see on the shelves at Whole Foods Market.

Zingerman’s is a gourmet food business, while Whole Foods is a supermarket (it sells some of the former’s products), so a direct comparison might be misleading.

Gourmet foods don’t come cheap.

Generally speaking, Whole Foods used to earn about 20% more on its products than stores selling similar products. However, with its acquisition by Amazon, this has been drastically reduced.

Both brands offer high-quality products.

They’re selective about where they source their ingredients and are intent on selling the best products.

I’ve explained why Zingerman’s products are expensive.

If you’d like to unpack why Whole Foods is probably the most expensive store, read a recent article of mine, where I shared the key reasons.

Higher quality ingredients, an alluring ambiance, and better product knowledge are the primary reasons it earns a premium relative to other stores. In fact, it’s one of the pioneers of mainstreaming healthy and organic foods.

Just click the link to read the article on my site.

Is everything at Zingerman’s all-natural?

Zingerman’s has an extensive mission statement and pages regarding the quality of ingredients. However, their website stops short of making claims of every product being all-natural or free of artificial ingredients.

So while it’s clear they focus on small family-run producers of ultra-quality products, I think it would be inaccurate to claim that everything they sell is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

By comparison, Whole Foods Market is crystal clear about its ingredient standards. (source) and (source)

But virtually all the products I saw on Zingerman’s website for writing this article are all-natural. 

On one of its websites, Zingerman’s states that: “Integrity of ingredients is central to all our Deli recipes”. And, in the article I quoted earlier, you’ll also find the following:

Bread is “baked in Zingerman’s Bakeshop for the restaurant and is made from carefully sourced grains without commercial yeast.”

In fact, Zingerman’s has pages on some of its websites (it’s a community of related food businesses) listing all the ingredients used in making some of its famous products.

Take one of its “subsidiaries”: bakehouse. It has its own mill and bakes its own bread and pastry. Here are examples:


Lastly, Whole Foods sells some of Zingerman’s products.

And, that’s saying a lot. Because as we know, WF is a stickler for natural ingredients. In fact, suppliers have to meet their standards before they carry their products.

What are the best deals at Zingerman’s?

We all love great deals. Zingerman’s got a lot. Here are some of the best from the House of Zingerman’s:

Mac and Cheese Monday

From 5 pm to 7 pm on Mondays, you get the house’s famous Mac and Cheese (a half a pound) with awesome toppings such as chilies, bacon, breadcrumbs, and a side salad for just $9.99. Register and pay online. Then go upstairs, and you’ll be served. You can take it home or eat-in.

T-shirt Tuesdays

Save $4 on your purchase by simply going into the store wearing a Zingerman’s T-shirt. It doesn’t matter where you bought it, as long as you’ve got it on. How cool is that?

Canvas Bag Wednesday

You save 10 percent on all your purchases as long as you come into the store with Zingerman’s tote bag. The bag sells for $30. It’s strong and durable.

Olive Oil Deal

Each month, there’s something special on sale. In February, if you buy up to 3 Olive oil, you get a great deal off the price. How much are we talking about? 10% off your first bottle, 20% off your second, and 30% off your third bottle!

There are other deals, but because of space, I’ve got to stop with the ones above.


We’ve learned a couple of really interesting facts about one of America’s coolest businesses.

A business with soul, if you will. We read what Oprah, Drew Barrymore, and others said about it. We checked out some of the ingredients it uses.

We looked at how it compares to Whole Foods in terms of price, and we wrapped things up by checking out some of its best deals.

You’ve got to agree with those who rave about it.

Photo which requires attribution:

#2 Zingerman’s Reuben by Jamie is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, stretched, and had a text overlay added

Jeff Campbell