In 2011, Lynn Mann had just had a baby daughter and was on a career break from being a psychotherapist when Supernature Oils was born.
The business started as part of an on-farm diversification from their small tenanted family farm south of Edinburgh. The idea was that she would just help her husband get the idea off the ground to bring in some extra income.
However, as many startups can testify, things didn't go to plan! The company took off and now Lynn runs an award winning cold pressed rapeseed oil company which is listed in Harrods and exported around the world.
Rapeseed oil is a Scottish alternative to extra-virgin olive oil. It is even healthier with half the saturated fat and 10 times the omega 3, but also has a high burn point, so can be used for stir frying, roasting or baking as well as for salads and dressings.
The company now produces a range of 15 infused oils including lemongrass, lime, dill and tarragon.
They also produce individually boxed white and black truffle oils, which are the products they have listed in Harrods.
The company continues to grow and now supplies supermarkets, farm shops, and delis, as well as many of the 4 and 5 star hotels in Scotland, restaurants and pub chains.
We caught up with Lynn and asked her about how the company developed from a side project to a five star staple.
How did you get started in the production of rapeseed oil?
We initially had someone in the north of England contract press the seed crop from our farm for the first year. They gave it back to us in big drums which we brought back to the farm and then bottled and labelled it ourselves.
So during this time we built up a market and distribution channels, and were selling product.
So you decided to take it in house and process your own crop? What did you need to do in order for that to happen?
We decided to take it back in-house because after about a year we realised that there was a good market for our oils and we became ambitious to grow the business, so it made more sense to invest in the equipment to do it ourselves.
We had to buy a press and build a room within a shed to filter the oil in.
It always seems that the supermarkets have a lot of power when considering distribution of a food product. How important are they?
I think it really depends on the goals and ambitions of each individual company as to how important supermarkets are. They are important and have a lot of power for anyone wanting what they produce to become a mass market product and they are looking at producing very large volumes. However, some companies are not interested in supplying supermarkets and have a variety of other routes to market, in particular artisan produce of a high quality, with good provenance. We are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
We typically think of farmers markets and farm shops as places to buy artisan produce. Is there a well established distribution network for artisan produce in Scotland now?
Yes, definitely, through distributors for retail and foodservice, and most farm shops, delis, and steadily more supermarkets are switched on to the fact that consumers are looking for these kind of products.
What about exporting? Is there a demand for quality products outwith the UK? Which markets are you targeting?
Again, yes, definitely. Scotland Food and Drink have been very successful in creating and promoting ‘Brand Scotland’ in the food and drink sector. In many of the key export markets there is a growing awareness of the quality and provenance of much of Scotland’s larder. We are exporting to several countries now, but markets currently showing real potential are the Middle East and Asia.
What challenges have you faced in this journey?
As with any young business the challenges have been many and varied! However, I think the main one has been the fact that cold pressed rapeseed oil is a new product for consumers. So as well as promoting our own brand and products we have had to do a lot of work around raising awareness of cold pressed rapeseed oil and its benefits as a cooking ingredient.
How have you found the Scottish entrepreneurial support ecosystem?
I have to say, I think the whole ecosystem in Scotland currently is fantastic. I have had a lot of support from organisations such as Entrepreneurial Spark, Women's Enterprise Scotland, Scottish Edge, Scottish Enterprise, and SDI. All of which had been invaluable.
Who other than Scotland Food and Drink have been helpful with your development and growth?
Other Scottish food businesses have been very helpful. I have learned so much from their experience and many that I have engaged with have been so generous with their time and advice. Also Scottish chefs have been very important in giving us their support to help raise awareness amongst consumers about cold pressed rapeseed oil.
So what next for Supernature Oils?
Expanding our product range and continuing to explore new markets, both in the UK and overseas. Also building our online presence.