17 Jan

Olive oil firm really cooking as turnover trebles to £100,000

By Jane Bradley,

A FORMER fund manager who set up her olive oil distribution business as a sideline while taking time off work to look after her baby son has seen business more than treble in a year.

Spanish-born Maria Cumming Panadero launched El Olivo two years ago to keep in touch with her homeland while running her own enterprise.

And the business, which she planned to keep as a part-time hobby while her son, James, was growing up, has rocketed – and Ms Cumming Panadero is now supplying oil to more than 300 delis across the UK, from Shetland and Orkney to Brighton, and is turning over £100,000 a year in wholesale and online sales.

While she originally meant to keep the firm as a small-scale, party plan-style enterprise, selling oil to food-lovers at private house parties, she has now had to give up that side of her work to concentrate on her booming wholesale market. She sources her award-winning oils from family-run farms in Spain and plans to double her turnover again in 2007.

Ms Cumming Panadero, who worked in a Canadian investment bank in London for 12 years before moving to Edinburgh with her Scottish husband in 1999, said she was stunned by how quickly her business had taken off.

She said: “In the first year, from May until December, I made £20,000 – last year it was £100,000 and I would be very disappointed if I do not double that next year.”

She got the idea to distribute Spanish olive oils to delis while she was feeding the traditional Spanish ingredient to her son.

She said: “I came up with the idea of olive oil one day when I was spreading it on my son’s toast and I was telling him of the benefits of using olive oil instead of butter. I started to think about it and to do research.”

She added: “Olive oil is a growing market in the UK. In Spain, people wouldn’t cook with anything else, and while that is what people here are starting to do here, the idea is growing.

“A lot of the time here, you have to pay a lot of money for a good bottle of olive oil, whereas what I want to do is make it affordable.”

Her oils are available at delis in the Capital, including Herbie’s in Stockbridge, Relish in Leith and Gourmet Pasta on Morningside Road.

With her confidence knocked after almost six years away from the workplace, Ms Cumming Panadero took part in a Women into Business course with Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothians before launching the company at the Edinburgh Fine Food Fair in May 2005.

She said: “I came out from my first session full of enthusiasm, energy and knowing that I was really going to give it a go.

“As the weeks went by I felt my confidence coming back and by the time the course ended I had business cards, leaflets etc printed and I was ready to go.”

She added: “I am definitely not disappointed I made the move – I look forward to going to work.”

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