22 Feb

New golden oil is testing farmers’ marketing skills

By David Cousins,

It’s tempting – but maybe a bit premature – to say that the reign of olive oil as the king of culinary oils is drawing to a close.

We Britons buy £104m-worth of it every year, according to market research company Mintel, and sales are still climbing. In fact the value of olive oil sales now outpaces that of any other cooking oil.

And there’s no denying that olive oil is a marketing man’s dream recipe. Take a few sun-drenched images of gorgeous Tuscan countryside, stir in some mouth-watering health benefits, add palate-tickling taste and you have a dish the British middle classes can’t resist.

But an as-yet tiny contender has come from nowhere to challenge the dominance of olive oil. It’s cold-pressed rapeseed oil, made from home-grown oilseed rape, and it’s quietly appearing on the shelves of farm shops, delicatessens and supermarkets around the country.

It may be a featherweight in terms of market share but it packs a big punch in several key areas.

Take health. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil (6% compared to 14%) and 10 times the levels of Omega 3. Not only that, but the Omega 3 is in the ideal 1:2 balance with Omega 6 for protecting the heart and lowering cholesterol levels.

Take taste and cooking qualities, too. Rapeseed oil has a higher smoke point than its Mediterranean rival, so you can get the oil hotter before it starts to smoke. It has a nice-but-subtle flavour too, which is good news for people who find olive oil a bit strong-tasting in dressings.

And of course its food mile count is much lower. Which might not have mattered three or four years ago, but is now an important factor for the typically well-off, environmentally-savvy, premium oil buyer.

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