A new generation of innovative brands are invigorating a category that mixes foodie flair with health credentials. Matt Chittock reports
Retailers of a certain age might well remember the days when you could only buy olive oil from a chemist, and ‘healthy oil’ referred solely to the foul-tasting cod liver variety.
In 2017, everything has changed. In the past two decades influential celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver have made olive oil ubiquitous as an everyday ingredient for cooking. Plus, they’ve primed consumers for upmarket oil as a premium product, while inspiring them to try alternatives such flaxseed oil.
Meanwhile, shoppers have quickly picked up on the widely publicized nutritional benefits of coconut oil and fish oil, and canny manufacturers have fused their foodie and health credentials to create a vibrant healthy oil market.
However, one of the criticisms of the healthy oil market is that it’s driven by trends. How else would coconut oil have found its way into the multiples?
Despite this, Amy Hope from Brighton co-op Infinity Foods, says that the category is here to stay. “In our store I’d say that coconut oil is selling well, as are the hemp and flaxseed oils,” she explains. “It’s the omega oils which customers come in and ask for – although they often need a bit of education about omega-3s and where they come from.
“I think that many more people are moving towards a plant-based diet. And when they do that they’re looking at getting more omega-3, which is where the oils are really useful.”
Hope adds that the oil format is a naturally easy way to add goodness to anything, with no capsules required.
The solid popularity of omega-3 oils means that brands eyeing the market now face a challenge. In a category that’s crowded, and high-value, how can you woo new consumers?
Points of difference
Melanie Lawson, founder of Bare Biology, understands this challenge first-hand. Four years ago, she launched her brand of omega-3 fish oils designed for the whole family.
“The market is saturated, it was even four years ago,” she says. “So what we’ve done is really raise our game in terms of quality. I’m very involved in overseeing all of the production and making sure the customer care is very personal, and that we’re talking to customers all the time about what they want.
“We’re the first British omega-3 brand to put each and every batch through independent tests with a programme called International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS). And each time our products are given the highest possible rating – a guarantee to our customers that our products are what we say they are.”
This hands-on approach also includes building an online lifestyle platform around the products, and hosting information about the benefits of fish oils from influencers including doctors, personal trainers and nutritional therapists.
“We want to be a brand that people buy into,” says Lawson. “We’re not just another faceless company out to make a profit. We’re there because we want to help people feel better and give them a quality product.”
Elsewhere in the category, new brands still see the scope to meld foodie appeal with nutritional nous. Hope says she’s seen how consumers are more willing to try something new to bring a healthy, tasty edge to their meal-for-tonight.
“I think everyone’s had virgin olive oil and those traditional oils, but today people are more likely to experiment with their food and try brand new things,” she explains.
“They’ll often look for something new they can put in the kitchen. And I’ve noticed that, even in recipes, there’s less mainstream oil choices given now – it’s not just about olive oil.”
One of the newest potential shelf superstars is Cocavo – an innovative blend of extra virgin coconut oil and avocado oil masterminded in New Zealand by avocado expert Chris Nathan.
The product aims to tick all the health boxes – it’s raw, cold-pressed, additive-free, GM-free and contains no trans fats. Plus, it features high levels of monounsaturates, vitamin E and plant sterols.
Ben Childs, who’s in charge of Cocavo’s operations in the UK, says he first saw the potential of the product on Facebook.
“It was Chris in New Zealand who came up with the idea of blending the two oils,” he says. “He spent a lot of time working on it so it doesn’t split, getting the texture right and so on. Last New Year’s Day
I was looking at Facebook and seeing my cousin Neville cooking scallops he’d caught in the bay with Cocavo, and I just thought – that looks so good! I emailed straight away to see if they needed a distributor here.”
A fruitful visit to the Natural & Organic Products Europe show in April saw Cocavo hook up with Marigold Health Foods and set up a deal to distribute the product in the UK.
Childs says that in this country they’re going for the premium end of the oil market. “In the UK it’s really going to be a premium product,” he says. “Naturally, that’s because of the quality, but there’s also the costs involved in bringing it over from New Zealand. Plus, we’ve just had Brexit, and the general election, which has meant that the prices have fluctuated. The idea is that eventually we’ll have a processing plant in America, which will bring the costs down and make it accessible to more people.”
Childs is adamant that the ethical side of the product is essential as well. He says that the oil is produced sustainably, which is a benefit he really wants to highlight through the marketing when Cocavo is given
“a big global push”.
The industry is always seeking exciting new products – so what’s the big oil trend likely to be this time next year?
Cannabidiol (CBD) – one of the active canna-binoids in cannabis – is currently graining ground, with brands often cunningly linking the oil with its narcotic namesake. For example, organic food brand Rawligion has caused a stir with its Relax drink, which features CBD alongside cashew nuts, dates and coconut oil. There’s the possibility that, given the oil’s leftfield cachet, it could do well outside the mainstream.
Whatever brand breaks through next, customers need to be knowledgeable about a product before they part with their hard-earned cash. With some oils a quick Google search is all you need to uncover (sometimes dubious) nutritional information.
But, if information is harder to come by, or customers aren’t inspired to seek it out, that can be a serious barrier. This was a problem that innovative Chia seed company Chia Bia came up against when it launched its Chia Seed Oil.
“Regretfully, we found the lack of education on omega-3 ALA was really apparent, particularly around Chia Seed Oil,” says the brand’s Claire Williams. “We don’t have the resources to drive the awareness of chia oil in the UK and Ireland and made the decision to discontinue the product.”
But, the company isn’t giving up that easily, and “in time may look at the oil category again”. After all, sometimes just a couple of years is all it takes for the public and media to catch up with what could be a hot new health trend.
Healthy Oils Products
MAGNIFICENT ORGANIC MILK THISTLE SEED OIL
The curative effects of thistle oil were already known back in the antiquity. Primarily, the oil is used to treat all liver diseases. The liver is a vital organ and suffers a lot due to inappropriate food and the big amounts of saturated fatty acids, additives, nitrates, alcohol and synthetic drugs. The oil heals blood circulation disorders, helps against low blood pressure, regulates the tone in arteries and stimulates the treatment of the diseases of the cardiovascular system; it also helps with migraines and dizziness. It strengthens the organism in general, cures different allergies, such as hives or the hay fever, helps during asthmatic attacks and eliminates motion sickness.RRP £10,90 www.biopurus.co.uk
Cocavo is a combination of the very best extra virgin organic coconut oil and avocado oil. It’s raw, cold-pressed, additive-free, cholesterol-free, GM-free and contains no contaminants or trans fats. Has less saturated fat than regular oil, all the benefits of avocado oil and all the cooking and health qualities of both. Designed by chefs the very high smoke point makes it ideal for cooking and lends itself to a wide variety of cooking styles. Cocavo is initially launching in the UK with five flavour variants…
• Light (mild buttery flavour)
• Chilli & Lime • Coriander Lime & Ginger
• Turmeric & Lemon
Coco Zumi Organic Fair Trade Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Coco Zumi is a premium quality and ethically sourced Coconut Oil. It provides the consumer with a stronger value proposition which is in line with Zumi’s values as a business. Coco Zumi Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is 100% Pure, Organic and Fair Trade. It is cold pressed and there are no additives. In the processing there has been no pasteurisation and no bleaching. The coconuts are Fair Trade and come from a natural agroforestry environment where the business has contributed to social development projects, including the building of fresh water wells. Available in 500ml, 265ml glass jars, and also 15ml squeeze pack premium sachets!
Barlean’s Flax Oil
Barlean’s cold-pressed, organic Flax Oils are ideal for those who prefer a vegan Omega-3 option. Flax oil contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other botanical in the world. Yet that high content of extremely degradable fats means it can spoil if not handled just right. Barlean’s’ proprietary, truly cold-pressed technology protects the perishable flax oil from the damaging effects of heat, light and oxygen. Barlean’s organic, pure flax oils are sourced from premium North American flaxseed only, are packaged in opaque bottles to prevent oxidation, and are freshness dated to ensure the very highest quality and best taste.
Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend
Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend is a blend of organic, unrefined nutritional oils free of the constituents found in processed oils. Its unique formulation provides an excellent source of unprocessed, undamaged essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6 in a 2:1 ratio that supports optimum health. Udo Erasmus spent many years perfecting this blend of flax, sesame, sunflower, coconut and evening primrose oil. Packaged in dark recyclable glass bottles to prevent any damage to ingredients. Simply mix in food after cooking, enjoy in porridge, fruit yoghurt, smoothies, salad dressings and more. Safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
TIANA Fair Trade Organics Raw Ginger Virgin Coconut Oil
With its delightful aromatic taste, TIANA Fair Trade Organics Raw Ginger Virgin Coconut Oil is perfect for adding gumption to traditional and quirky dishes alike. This TIANA superfood essential is made by introducing pure, distilled fresh ginger root to our delicious pure extra virgin coconut oil free from the ‘coconutty’ taste of our competitors. No coconut aroma, just award-winning cold-pressed virgin coconut oil with a delicious mild ginger taste that can be used in a wide range of recipes. It’s the first and only product of its kind available to UK shoppers.
Vegan EPA and DHA Liquid
Vegan EPA & DHA provides the omega-3 fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) & Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from sustainably-grown marine algae. This product offers a vegan and vegetarian omega 3 oil alternative providing 225mg EPA and DHA per ml. Our Vegan EPA and DHA is formulated with European grown Chia seed oil to supply the full spectrum of omega 3, 6 and 9, along with natural orange oil. Non-GM, non-irradiated, allergen-free, against animal-testing. With experienced sales, marketing and technical expertise, Viridian is dedicated to the security and development of the specialist health food store. Costs: Trade £8.27, Retail £20.15
Peak Omega 3 Liquid Fish Oil 250ml
Our great tasting Peak Omega-3 Liquid has natural lemon flavor and is guaranteed 90% Triglyceride form. With 2150mg of EPA+DHA per teaspoon it provides a concentrated dose of Omega-3 fatty acids in every serving.
• 2150mg of EPA+DHA per teaspoon
• 1300mg of EPA & 850mg DHA
• Take 1 tsp. per day with food
• 8.45 fl. oz. bottle is a 50 day supply
Raw Health Organic Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tel: 0208 5472775
This rich, smooth extra virgin olive oil is made using organic olives that are hand harvested just before ripening, then cold extracted to preserve their unique flavour and aroma. Superior category Greek raw olive oil with a rounded fruity flavour, perfect for drizzling, dipping or in dressings.