Startling innovation isn’t exactly the hallmark of oil producers but pan sprays show what can happen if you get it right. According to Aarhus, which markets the Spray N Cook brand, this segment rose 12.4% in volume during 2004 with a 10% increase in value [ACNielsen 52 w/e October 2004].
Aarhus markets Spray N Cook on a health platform, describing it as “cholesterol-free and only four calories per spray”. Consumers apparently want more: Aarhus has increased the pack size to 200ml with 25% extra free.
There are two variants - Sunflower Spray and Olive Mist - and retail marketing manager Suzanne Heffernan says a flavoured olive oil spray could follow: “It’s something we’re looking at, but it’s only in the development stage.”
The spray offers benefits to consumers who don’t want to slosh on the oil. But despite sprays having been around for a while, genuinely new formats have been elusive of late.
Classy bottles are a given for premium oils, and some gift-style packaging is edging from the deli trade into mainstream grocery. Extra virgin oils from emerging Jordanian brand Terra Rossa, for example, are supplied in stylish tapered bottles and rustic, ceramic jars.
The latter are available gift-packed with sachets of Zaatar, a mix of thyme, sesame seeds and other herbs, which can be used to make a bread dip.
Mediterranean foods importer Bevelynn has experimented with various oil packs and currently offers a flagon bottle from Andalucia and a corked Cretian 500ml bottle. “At the request of customers we’ve also tested earthenware with consumers,” says MD Peter Kakolyris. “But research showed they wanted to be able to see the colour and consistency of the oil.”
Elsewhere, innovation is
focused on ingredients with strong health connotations - some crossing over from health foods. Aarhus has worked with Holland & Barrett to develop an oil rich in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. “Omega is the buzzword at the moment,” says Heffernan. This contains sunflower, olive oil, blackcurrant seed oil and added vitamins, and doubles as a health supplement or culinary oil. Could it go into mainstream grocery? “It’s a question of where you categorise it,” says Heffernan. “But do you put it with the oils or with the vitamins?”
The Groovy Food Company is also counting on Omega
fatty acids. Its core product is Cool Oil, a blend of four seed oils - pumpkin, evening primrose, hemp and flax - mixed to give the “optimum ratio” of Omega-3, 6 and 9.
Cool Oil is being pitched as a food, not a supplement.
One downside is that it can’t be heated, but it can be ‘taken’ in smoothies or as a salad dressing. Packed in 250ml Italian green glass bottles, it isn’t cheap, selling at around £8.50.
Stockists so far include Selfridges and Harvey Nichols as well as Boots, Sainsbury and assorted farm shops and organic specialists.
Last summer Carapelli, Italy’s brand leader and the UK’s number two in extra virgin olive oil, came up with Olys, described as “the first oil that brings together the nutritional properties of cereals (wheatgerm, maize germ and rice) and the beneficial properties of fruit (nuts and blackcurrants)”.
Olys is currently listed in Waitrose and “others are looking at it”, according to Michael Adams of UK importer Euro Food Brands. “We are trying to bridge the gap between standard seed oils and olive oils,” he says. “It’s £2.99 for a one-litre bottle, so it is offering better value than a premium olive oil.”