Sowing the Seeds of Success – The Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil Story
It’s that time of year again when we all try to tighten our belts and adopt healthier habits. In recent years it has come to light that fat is in fact our friend, after years of being told to cut all oil from our diets to trim our waistlines and promote heart health. Compounded with the fact that a high quality oil can enhance the flavour of your dishes, it makes sense to invest in the best possible one, the ultimate multipurpose ingredient in your pantry.
One producer who will welcome this shift in consumer consciousness is Broighter Gold, the multi award winning rapeseed oil created from field to bottle by Leona and Richard Kane of Limavidy, Northern Ireland. As 6th generation farmers, the couple are wholly immersed in the production of this very special oil but would certainly confirm that there is such thing as a happy accident.
When asked how Broighter Gold came to be, Leona explained how a 2009 farmhouse renovation led them to stumble upon the prized oil, “we just got our new range installed and I wanted to cook two steaks for tea to celebrate having a cooker again!” she says. “We had very little in our cupboards so Richard brought me up some of the cold pressed oil.” Making do with the unfiltered by-product of the farming business, Leona added the oil to a hot pan and a discovery was made, “the smell was completely different to olive oil and the rapeseed oil didn’t burn, Richard joked that night it was our Broighter Gold!” Leona recalls fondly.
With a background in sales and Richard’s farming expertise, Leona began researching for similar products and found a gap in the market. Pregnant with her second child in 2010, the decision to start working for herself seemed like the best option and Broighter Gold was born soon after. This marketing acumen would prove invaluable to Leona and Richard as a team, as Leona notes “it is easy when you believe in your own product and Richard has won lots of awards in farming.” Confident in their collective ability, there was no stopping the couple- “we had the right seed, bottle and branding so it was putting all the work in that counted”. Swearing she would pack it all in if after five years they hadn’t tasted success, six years on Leona is very pleased she took a leap of faith and clearly has an unwavering belief in the value and quality of their product.
“Broighter Gold has 10 times more omega 3 than olive oil and half the saturated fat. It also has Omega 6 and 9 that olive oil doesn’t have, and vitamin D and E. But for me it’s the cooking of it, it cooks to 220 degrees” Leona explains, proving Broighter Gold outdoes its nearest rival of the olive variety on every front from nutrition to smoke point and crucially, flavour.
In just six years, the product has caught the eye of numerous star chefs, made its way onto menus in high end restaurants and occupied pride of place on the shelves of iconic food stores such as La Grande Epicerie in Paris. Endorsement of the oil’s superior quality has come from some of the Northern Ireland’s top chefs – “when you get a chef who actually puts your brand on his menu is a feeling like no other for a small producer,” says Leona. Chefs such as Lough Erne’s Noel McMeel, Paul Rankin and Michael Deane are all fans of Broighter Gold but it was the Royal seal of approval that had Leona and Richard feeling like they needed to pinch themselves:
“Prince Charles had the best quote this year when he tasted our 23 carat Gold Special Edition and said “you could be gold plated from the inside out”! Camilla was also a very big fan of our Truffle Infused oil and was delighted when I gave her a bottle to take home.”
I had to wonder, how could what we commonly confine to a mere ancillary ingredient be so captivating to judges at the Great Taste Awards, as Broighter Gold has consistently picked up stars and was described as “golden harvest in a glass.” The key to the unique flavour profile? “We only grow one single variety, on one type of soil that is unique to the whole of Ireland. We have had our soil tested by AFBI and are delighted with the results” Leona explains proudly. Broighter Gold oils are much milder and not as harsh as other oils and have been described as “butter-smooth and subtle” by Guild of Fine Foods judges.
The ultimate luxury pantry accessory, their 23 carat Gold Special Edition oil is Broighter Gold specked with 23 carat edible gold flakes. Opulence, bottled, came about when the Kanes were approached by Simon Dougan, of the Yellow Door Deli, a gourmet market not unlike a Northern Irish Fallon & Byrne, who told them about an impending visit of top chefs from Dubai to Belfast to cook. Determined to impress, Leona says “I got my thinking cap on and within 2 days we had our Special Edition 23ct Gold Leaf to mark the Year of Food and Drink and also Broighter Gold’s 5th Anniversary.” The effort clearly paid off, with this limited edition finishing oil being awarded two gold stars at the Great Taste Awards and becoming a must have finishing oil in many a high end chef’s pantry.
With the imagination of talented chefs captured, Broighter Gold sought to keep the momentum going releasing the Black Gold range, which includes a luxurious Black Truffle and Wild Porcini Oil. “To be honest our products were only ever produced for chefs but because they talked so much about them we had to start selling them to our stockists”, Leona says of the surprise popularity of the expansion of the range.
While collecting awards is par for the course for Leona and Richard at this stage, the most rewarding part of running their business model is surprisingly not gathering silverware for their golden liquor.”Being a farmer, you sometimes don’t get to see what the end product is. We are so lucky to be able to take our crops out of our fields, into our own sheds, press and bottle all our own oil” says Leona of her favourite aspect of being a hands on artisan producer. “I just love what we do and the people we work with”, she says, noting that the wonderful messages they receive from happy customers make it all worthwhile.
As for running a business together as a couple, Leona confirms that the dynamic works smoothly,with Richard working out in the fields for the most part while she takes care of the commercial side of things -“Richard is happy with me running the business, he knows better than to disagree with my decisions!” she jokes.
As for the family side of things, Leona is honest admitting that the long hours and dedication it takes to make a business like Broighter Gold take a toll, “this was never going to be a hobby, even though I did think I was going to be able to have more family time” she says. “If you want it to succeed you will if you put your blood sweat and tears into it. And that’s what I have done”. It can’t be denied that this graft has paid off, with Broighter Gold now in talks to distribute as far afield as Dubai, where the opulent 23 carat Gold Edition will no doubt be a hit.
It seems Leona has always been keen to be kept busy, as in 2011, just 3 months after the birth of their daughter, she flew to Canada to having been approached by The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust to build an Economusée on the farm. The Economusée, a working museum designed to combine sustainability, tourism and culture as well as create an economic platform for a small artisan producer like Broighter Gold, has been a roaring success.
This feature attracts tourists from America, Canada and of course locals who are can see the entire process from sowing seeds through to bottling. Leona recounts Richard’s reaction to an opportunist American with his sights set on buying the farm and business, marveling at the entire operation after visiting the Economusée -“Richard said the farm was his and that he would sell me before the farm!” she laughs. One thing is for sure, the Kanes seem to have the Midas touch, sowing the seeds of success with their gold standard oils.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.