Heveningham: Rapeseed oil operation set to expand

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good yea

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good year after the European olive oil crop produced a poor harvest. - Credit: Archant

A farm diversification making cold-pressed rapeseed oil is planning a major expansion.

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good yea

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good year after the European olive oil crop produced a poor harvest. - Credit: Archant

Hillfarm Oils, based at Sam Fairs’ farm at Heveningham, near Halesworth, is set to increase its capacity by 50% after installing four new presses at a cost of nearly £30,000.

The company, the first farm in the UK to produce its culinary mainstay, Extra Virgin Cold-Pressed Rapeseed Oil, says it expects to recruit a further two staff to its seven-strong workforce after the presses become operational.

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil has been the firm’s star performer, delivering double digit growth for the last four years.

Business manager Lawrence Frohn said: “We’re seeing increasing demand from the retail sector with sales to both the multiple and independent sector showing annual growth rates in excess of 20%. The development of new markets in the manufacturing sector is also increasing demand for Hillfarm Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil as manufacturers look to improve the health credentials of the products they are producing.”

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good yea

Lawrence Frohn at Hillfarm Oils near Halesworth. The rapeseed oil plant grower are having a good year after the European olive oil crop produced a poor harvest. - Credit: Archant


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More than 1,000 acres of rapeseed are grown on the family farm. The expansion of the oils business means it will press most of the seed it produces, ensuring that consumers can enjoy an oil with distinct provenance.

The Fairs family has been keen to promote the oil as a home-grown alternative to imported culinary oils such as olive oil and believes that cold-pressed rapeseed oil can have distinctive variations in flavour based on the varieties that are grown and other factors.

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Sam Fairs, who created the business with wife, Clare, said: “Having started to cold press our own rapeseed oil 10 years ago, it’s great to see that consumers, led by chefs and food journalists, are really switching on to the advantages of British grown and produced rapeseed oil, recognising the nutritional benefits as well as its versatility in the kitchen, using it as go-to ingredient rather than a novelty for occasional use.”

Lawrence said: “Currently, Hillfarm Oils employs four full-time staff and three part- time staff. Once the presses are in full production we are committed to creating two new full- time roles in the business. One of these will be fairly soon and the other towards the end of the year.

“One of these roles will be in production, as we have seen the demand for Hillfarm Oil in bottles at retail increasing by over 20% in the last year and we are forecasting an increase of 30-40% over the next year.

“The other role will be in marketing where we are putting more focus on looking after our independent retailers and we are breaking into new markets not currently using cold pressed rapeseed oil.”

The important point about the new presses, says Lawrence, is that they are screw presses, which gently squeeze the oil out of the seed, as opposed to presses which “crush and grind” the oil out of the seed.

“Treating the seeds and oil with respect and handling it gently is an important part of our process at Hillfarm as it causes less damage to the finished product and maintains its integrity, nutritional composition and flavour,” he said.

Hillfarm has launched a luxury cosmetics range, a Revitalising Hand Lotion and Rehydrating Hand Wash, made using its own cold-pressed rapeseed oil, developed with the help of a Suffolk cosmetics producer.

The Hillfarm Oils range is sold across the UK via Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco and independent retailers.

Last month, the firm took part in the 2015 Best Breakfast awards, run by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) after partnering with the Farm Café Marlesford. They clinched the runner-up place in the Best Cold Breakfast category.

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