Scottish rapeseed oil producers eye Middle East

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

Scottish rapeseed oil producers eye Middle East

Related tags Rapeseed oil United arab emirates Middle east

Scottish premium rapeseed oil producers are looking to the Middle East for export growth, as they reap the benefits of a new export collaboration project and rising olive oil prices.

Rapeseed oil producer Summer Harvest has been selling its cold-pressed oils and salad dressings to the Middle East for several years, and this year saw new orders from UAE supermarket chain Choithrams, following February’s Gulfood exhibition. Along with Choithrams, Summer Harvest is now selling its products in the UAE, Oman and Bahrain through LuLu Hypermarket, Alosra and UTH.

Summer Harvest’s managing director, Mark Bush, said business has been building thanks to repeated visits to the region: “What I’ve found, from my experience to date, is it’s a very personal thing – the buyers like to know who you are, see the whites of your eyes. They want to talk to you, and find out about you – and then the product.

The first time I visited, I spoke to Choithrams and they weren’t sure. I went back the second time, and since then they’ve placed an order for some of our oils, and a selection of our dressings​,” he added.

Collaboration to boost sales

While the firm has seen success on its own, it is aiming to boost its business in the Middle East through its participation in a new collaboration project organised by Scottish food exporter Braehead Foods. Under the project, Braehead will consolidate products from a number of small Scottish producers, with the aim of cutting costs and simplifying the export process for both producers and buyers.

It’s going to open more doors for us – even if I had my own export manager, there’s a limit one person can do, and we’d still have that big logistics issue. With the likes of Braehead, we’ve got more doors open to us, and have a more interesting offering for the buyer​,” said Bush.

If a buyer’s interested in rapeseed oil, great – how about oat cakes? Or, if they’ve taken a lot of oat cakes, how about rapeseed oil? It’s going to open more doors to us, and we’ll help each other​,” he added.

Chefs before retail?

Another Scottish rapeseed oil producer, Mackintosh of Glendaveny, has also made inroads into the Middle East, although primarily selling to the food service sector. Managing director Gregor Mackintosh said hotels and chefs in the region have been very receptive to his firm’s range of oils, including flavour-infused products – but he saw retail as a harder market.

We have the view that this is a very new product in a new market. It’s very easy to sell to the chefs, because if they like it, they’ll use it, and tell others in the industry – whereas in retail it’s down to customer perception. We’ve really managed to establish the market exceptionally well in the UK, thanks to fantastic PR, but it’s going to be a lot harder to establish that in Dubai​,” said Mackintosh.

Despite this, he said the region has “the biggest potential for us, and the easiest route to market at the moment​” – and said the firm had recently signed with a new distributor, Promar, and secured a contract with a major UAE hotel group. Mackintosh believes recent problems with the olive harvest in Europe will also help rapeseed oil.

We’re in a very competitive position. Over there there’s huge potential, so the price has got to be right – we’re in a position to hit that market at around US$4.36 per litre. Olive oil at this time ranges from around US$4.90 to US$6.80 per litre – but the price of olive oil is going to skyrocket​,” he said. 

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