One oilseed rape grower north of the border has turned to on-farm processing of his rapeseed to add value to his harvest.
Gregor Mackintosh spotted a gap in the market and started bottling home-grown cold-pressed rapeseed oil from his family farm, and four years later he is the largest producer in Scotland.
The Aberdeenshire family business supplies more than 290 retail outlets across Scotland and England, deals with three major retailers Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury, and has its eyes on the export market.
The range expanded recently with four new infused oils, while the family has recently won an export order to a Dubai-based wholesaler with distribution across the Middle East.
He recognised that good publicity would be essential to the success of the business which trades as Mackintosh of Glendaveny from the family farm near Peterhead.
“We needed to get a great deal of exposure in the press from day one, so that both the new product and the new brand were recognised,” Mr Mackintosh says.
Rapeseed oil market
Entering the Great Taste Awards – the benchmark for specialty food products – helped with this task. Having won accolades four years in a row, the oil became known as a consistently good quality product, with customers returning for more and retailers knocking at his door.
“We wanted to produce a healthy product which also met consumer demand for locally produced foods. Our cold pressed rapeseed oil meets both of those requirements very well,” he adds.
His cold-pressed rapeseed oil has half the saturated fat of olive oil and is rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 – all essential components of a healthy diet, and the process results in rapeseed oil which retains its natural character and flavour.
“The hot pressing process is highly refined and produces a lower quality vegetable oil. That wasn’t where we wanted to go – Scotland has a well deserved reputation for quality food and drink,” Mr Mackintosh says.
All of the oil is pressed, filtered and bottled on the farm, in a processing facility based next to a 1,000 tonne rapeseed store and office facilities. Current production is 600,000 litres a year, but he has invested in greater capacity to meet future demand.
Funding for the business came from the Prince’s Trust, Aberdeen Council and his bank. Support from the Grampian Food Forum partnership has been invaluable – it was at his first meeting that Mr Mackintosh was introduced to the Asda buying team.
Entrepreneurial spiritGregor is not the only member of the Mackintosh family to display entrepreneurial spirit in the farming world. His brother, Fraser, has a forage business, known as Ugie Valley Feeds, which produces high quality hay, straw and haylage for the horse market. The company delivers to all areas of Scotland, from its Aberdeen base, and has built up a good client base among the racing yards.
The oilseed rape used to produce the oil was already being grown on the home farm, although another 160ha has been taken on recently under a contract farming agreement, to maintain supply.
“We do also buy oilseed rape from local farms, providing it meets our specification,” he says.
The three oilseed rape varieties used can all be found on the HGCA Recommended List, but Mr Mackintosh is unwilling to be too specific as he looks to protect his competitive advantage.
“They do vary in their taste and suitability for the cold pressing process, so we’ve had to learn as we’ve gone along,” he says.
He will reveal that he looks for a high oil content, easy crushing and filtering characteristics and, for his own farm, club root resistance.
“That’s changing because we’ve widened the rotation now and included more grass, to try and deal with club root,” he adds.
The environmental credentials of the business – a key requirement of the major retailers – are enhanced by the fact that the business is a zero waste company, and has plans for two wind turbines.
“The filtrate from the process is used in a biomass boiler which supplies the heat for the farm house and office buildings, while the oilseed pulp is fed back to livestock,” he says.