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University partnership forecasts healthy growth for Scotland’s rapeseed oil industry

Posted: 9th June 2015

University expertise is being used to position Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil as a significant contender in the healthy food market.

SRO2         SRO3
(Louise Elder – Black & Gold, Stevenson Mains Farm, Haddington, East Lothian)

For the first time, a group of Scottish rapeseed oil producers and growers are working together with university food experts to promote the unique health benefits of locally grown rapeseed oils.

Presenting a united front, The Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group (SRO), is stepping up its campaign to raise awareness and encourage more consumers to buy into this oil category.

With distinct advantages over olive oil, food scientists from Queen Margaret University (QMU) are helping the group more clearly communicate the nutritional benefits of Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and other high profile Scottish chefs such as Mark Greenaway and Neil Forbes have praised cold-pressed rapeseed oil for its delicate and nutty taste which is more neutral compared to olive oil.

QMU’s latest research for SRO suggests that Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil has an exceptional fatty acid profile compared with its rivals and is a valuable source of antioxidants which remain active following domestic cooking.

Research carried out by QMU shows that rapeseed oil contains six per cent of saturated fat, less than half that found in most olive oils. It also contains a more favourable ratio of omega 3:6 fatty acids than other vegetable oils. With a higher burning point than most other oils, cold-pressed rapeseed oil retains its health benefits when used for roasting or frying.

A number of taste panels conducted by QMU have also confirmed consumer preference for the distinctive flavour of Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

With a strong research background in supporting the development of Scotland’s food and drink businesses, SRO identified QMU’s Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation, as the academic partner with widest skills and knowledge to substantiate consumer insight into the health benefits of Scottish rapeseed oil versus other oils.

Dr Jane McKenzie, Academic Lead for Food & Drink Knowledge Exchange at QMU, discussed the findings: “Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil can contribute a valuable source of antioxidants to our diets. Antioxidants play a valuable role in maintaining good health. They can help protect cells from damage and are important in the fight against disease.

“Our research suggests that the fatty acid profile of Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil was different from that of oils from other origins and suggests an even more favourable contribution towards dietary factors to reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Dr McKenzie concluded: “Hopefully our research findings will help SRO promote Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil in the UK and international markets by providing consumers with more detailed information about the nutritional content and distinctive flavour of this premium product.”

SRO, which includes seven rapeseed growers and producers, was set up by Interface Food & Drink in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink and SAOS. The group is working on pulling its resources together to promote Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil to consumers and buyers.

Commenting on behalf of SRO, Amanda Brown, Industry Development Director for Scotland Food & Drink, said: “Despite a lack of clear understanding about the benefits and use of cold pressed rapeseed oil, consumers are aware of this emerging product and this provides a unique opportunity for education and developing further sales.

“QMU’s research suggests that Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil has a distinctive fatty acid profile in comparison to cold-pressed rapeseed oils from elsewhere in the UK and Europe, which may in turn allow for targeted marketing to differentiate it.”

Helen Pratt, Project Manager of Interface Food & Drink said: “SRO has shown how companies that would normally be competing with one another can gain huge benefits by collaborating with one another. It also shows the opportunities that can be achieved in other food sectors -from bakers to confectionery makers – the message is clear – working together will create bigger impacts for the individual business as well as the sector as a whole.”

Until a decade ago, rapeseed was mostly used in margarine and the processed food sector, mixed with other oils to be sold in bulk cheap vegetable oil, but over the last decade a niche market has developed for cold-pressed rapeseed oil which is now beginning to eat into the market share of imported olive oil.

Instead of heating the rapeseed to allow extraction of oil from the plant, the cold-press process involves the rapeseed being gently squeezed until the oil comes out. Unlike the hot-press process, no chemicals or bleaches are used, so much of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants are retained.

According to retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel, sales of cold-pressed rapeseed oil in Scotland were £0.7 million last year, growing 18 per cent year on year. Kantar also says that 4.3 per cent of Scottish shoppers bought cold-pressed rapeseed oil over the last 12 months and 33,000 shoppers bought the product for the first time.

For more information about QMU’s Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation and how it can benefit your business, contact Miriam Smith, Business Development Manager at QMU on 0131 474 0000 or email

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