field of rapeseed

Last year, consumer research group Kantar Worldpanel declared that the demand for rapeseed oil was soaring. According to the Telegraph, rapeseed was the fastest growing vegetable oil in the UK, with sales rising by more than 24% througout the year, to March 2015. Sales of sunflower oil, vegetable oil and extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, fell by 3%, 12% and 8%, respectively.

We spoke to the team at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Cereals and Oilseeds about the benefits of using rapeseed oil, as well as talking to rapeseed oil producer Mrs Middleton’s about its products.

Home-grown roots

Rapeseed oil has been proclaimed to be a healthy British alternative to olive oil. Although olive oil has a firm foothold as a kitchen staple, the intrigue around rapeseed oil is steadily increasing.

Launched in 2008 by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, Rapeseed Oil Benefits is an independent not-for-profit campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of rapeseed oil and to inspire and motivate people to use this cooking oil.

"Along with linseed, these are the only oils grown and bottled in the UK."

Speaking about the oil, the marketing executive at Rapeseed Oil Benefits Donna Neary says: "Rapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of rapeseed plants. These come from the same brassica family as the health-enhancing vegetables broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Along with linseed, these are the only oils grown and bottled in the UK."

Barton Hill Farm in Bedfordshire, UK, is home to the manufacturing of Mrs Middleton’s where the rapeseed is grown. Whizz Middleton, a farmer and producer at Mrs Middleton’s says: "We grow the oilseed rape here on the farm. It is planted in August or September, carefully monitored through the season and then harvested in July or August the following year. We store it carefully and crush it in batches. Each bottle has the field name and grid reference on it showing the customer where it has come from."

Awareness and benefits

Advocates of rapeseed oil are keen to illustrate the health benefits that using this cooking oil can have.

Neary comments: "Rapeseed oil has less saturated fat than all other cooking oils and fats, 50% less than olive oil for example. It is also high in mono-unsaturated fats. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, which is beneficial for heart health. It is also a rich source of vitamin E. The versatility of rapeseed oil means that it is perfect for the food industry and consumers alike. It can be used for roasting and frying or as an alternative to butter in baking."

"Local products are always popular."

Shifting consumer attitudes and more awareness towards their purchase options means that traceability and the ethical value of products are highly scrutinised.

Middleton says: "When doing farmers’ markets and food fairs, it is obvious that customers are really interested in where their food comes from. Local products are always popular but consumers are also keen to know more about traceability, health benefits and recipe ideas of what they are buying."

Neary also agrees that rapeseed oil may become more prominant. She said: "I believe some consumers are becoming more aware of what they are eating and that this will increase. Consumers’ purchasing habits can be influenced by many things such as taste, value, health, versatility, convenience, quality and provenance – this is why a product like rapeseed oil fits the bill, so it’s fantastic to see it gaining the recognition it deserves."