By Karen Carruth

It wasn’t that long ago that cold pressed rapeseed oil was nothing more than a fanciful myth. No one knew what it was, produced it or used it. And yet here we are with a host of Scottish producers who have cracked an already very successful oil market and have managed to change the way consumers think when they shop for a bottle of oil.

What is it?
Rapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of rapeseed plants, from the same family as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Harvested in late summer, rapeseed plants are the ones that you see flowering bright yellow in fields during May. 
The oil is released by cold pressing. Which means no chemicals are used in the pressing process. With a screw press, the seeds of the rapeseed plant are squeezed to extract the oil, so it retains all its natural flavour and nutritional benefits.
Artisan cold pressed rapeseed oils have different characters, textures and tastes, which gives each of Scotland’s producer a chance to compete with each other with their own unique taste. Seeds grown in the Highlands are likely to have a different taste to those which are grown in the Borders.

The group
Back in 2013 a group of Scottish producers got together to pull resources and to raise customer awareness of the oil. Called the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group, the aim was to undertake research projects together to gather evidence about the health benefits of rapeseed oil and to look at the versatility of the product. Innovation has been at the heart of the group, working out ways to carve out new opportunities for the group.
There are currently seven producers in the group: Black and Gold, in East Lothian; Borderfields, Northumberland; Cullisse, in the Highlands; Mackintosh of Glendaveny in Aberdeenshire, Ola Oils in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire; Summer Harvest in Crieff and Supernature in Midlothian.

Health benefits
This is where rapeseed oil shines. If you pick up an average bottle of olive oil, quite apart from the fact that it is probably imported, you are likely to be consuming double the saturated fat than had you picked up a bottle of rapeseed oil. The health benefits are widely touted, it has 63g of monounsaturated and 28g of polyunsaturated fats per 100g. These are the good type of fats that can help reduce bad cholesterol levels. It is also high in naturally occurring antioxidents and is a great source of plant based Omega 3, 6 and 9, which is beneficial for heart health. It is also a rich source of Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from damage.

Is bigger better?
Getting together with other producers is not new within the food industry. Food co-operatives have been around for a long time, and this group is no different in its quest to take their collective knowledge and grow the product to a wider audience. Even though they are in competition with each other, they know their collective voice is louder within the wider food and drink industry.

Why is it so popular?
Scottish rapeseed oil is tasty and versatile, ideal for roasting, frying, baking and drizzling. You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate that the taste is unique, each producer’s oil has a different taste depending on the seed flavour, the climate, and the soil it was grown in – and now that the producers have expanded their range, the opportunities for use in cooking is huge.
Chefs rave about it, not least because it has a high smoke point of 238oC, which means it doesn’t burn so quickly at high temperatures. That means that even when you do heat the oil it doesn’t lose its health-giving benefits.

A word from the producers:

The most northerly cold pressed rapeseed oil producer, Cullisse Highland Rapeseed Oil, under the ownership of Robert Mackenzie has grown the rapeseed oil side of the family farming business and now supplies retailers, hotels and restaurants across the globe with his oil that is grown in the unique micro climate and fertile soils of Easter Ross.
Cullisse is part of the Rapeseed Oil Group, and Robert comments that the group has given the producers advanced generic marketing reach that they may not have had otherwise. Robert has picked up many contacts along this journey and has worked tirelessly putting together a distribution network that has taken Cullisse oil to customers from his local Highland area to Sweden, Germany and Canada, and he has also set up relationships with distributors in Dubai and Singapore.
Cullisse concentrate mainly on their flagship cold pressed oil, with its silky butteriness and hints of asparagus, but the range has been expanded to include chilli oil, and a mixed pepper and spice oil which are proving popular.  
Hailing from many generations of farmers, Robert has been keen, since a visit to Africa during his university days, to support African farmers in their own journey of improving their lives through innovation, training and climate-smart approaches to land management. For every litre of Cullisse oil that is sold, 20p goes to Farm Africa, the charity focused on transforming African agriculture by helping farmers to increase their harvests, protect the environment and sell their produce in thriving markets. For more information on Farm Africa, go to

Lynn and Chris Mann have taken their rapeseed oil business, Supernature, in a slightly different direction with the addition of a large range of infused oils.  Grown on their Midlothian Farm, and used throughout the UK and abroad. Their oils have found their way into retailers in places as far flung as Borneo and Bermuda! 
The bulk of the oil is used in the food service industry, that being hotels, restaurants and pubs across the UK. As I said, chefs love it.
Lynn says: “Everyone in the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group has their own commercial differences and we have found our own unique selling points. We found that our oil, having such a light buttery taste was perfect to take on the rich flavours of family favourite herbs, fruits and roots, to create fantastic tasting, classic and unique infusions.”
There are 15 different flavours on the infusion list, some traditional, like garlic, or rosemary, some a little more exotic like lemongrass, tarragon or the popular black and white truffle oil. 
Supernature is the only cold pressed oil producer in the UK to have won a Quality Food Award. Lynn says it is important to establish credibility in the marketplace, forming the Rapeseed oil group has given other food producer groups a template to follow as a successful collaboration that has brought about many positives.

Black & Gold
One of the smallest producers in the group is Black & Gold, based in the fertile county of East Lothian, where they have been growing oilseed rape for more than 30 years on their farm, Stevenson Mains. They only use the seed that is grown on their farm, giving them ultimate control over their prime product.
Louise Elder, and her husband Hugh (and his brother Alasdair who work the farm) are proud of the product they produce and have created a network of stockists all over Scotland, particularly farms shops and delis and are members of the Haddington Farmers’ Market where they appear on the last Saturday of every month weighed down with their bottles of oil.
Louise has been working on blending her oil with some other natural flavours and has come up with a Dijon vinaigrette, a honey and mustard dressing as well as a natural oak smoked chipotle oil which uses jalapeno flakes which are smoked over oak chips.
Louise agrees that the collective voice of the group has been beneficial to Black & Gold.
“Collaboration is key. It’s been an exercise in educating the public, and the success can be measured by the fact that consumers are now picking up rapeseed oil as a first choice culinary oil, with the knowledge of the health benefits and they know that cold pressing keeps it a natural product.”