Taste of success: Born out of chance, the Kane family's rapeseed oil is set for export growth
Like so many great small business ideas it was started around the kitchen table. Broighter Gold, the award-winning, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, was born quite by accident on Leona and Richard Kane's arable farm in Limavady back in 2006.
Richard was pressing for bio diesel when Leona ran out of olive oil while making dinner.
"We were cooking two steaks that night and Richard brought me up a cupful of the rapeseed that was unfiltered, and I used it," Leona said.
"I thought it was going to ruin the steaks but I loved the smell. I didn't know much about rapeseed at the time, but there was such a difference in smell and taste to olive oil. It wasn't as strong. It [ultimately the business] started when Richard said that night, 'That's our Broighter Gold'."
Leona did a little online research about the health benefits of rapeseed oil and realised it was a product they could produce from start to finish on the 800-acre farm, that has been in the Kane family for over 100 years.
"It's got 10 times more Omega 3 and half the saturated fat, and there is also Omega 6 and 9 which you don't get with olive oil, plus vitamin D and E," said Leona, a former Farmers' Union Office worker. Roughly 200 acres of the farm cultivates oil seed, with the remaining 600 acres used to grow wheat, barley and potatoes.
Mother-of-two Leona finally got the business off the ground in 2011, selling the oil through farmers' markets and local independent shops and restaurants.
"A chef came over to us at the first farmers' market we ever went to and when we got home that night we had a message on the Facebook page we created the night before," Leona said.
"He said he had tried other rapeseed oil before and that he had never tasted anything like ours.
"So I started to contact different chefs. I spoke to Chris Bell at the Galgorm and Stanley Matthews at the Limetree -- they both said our oil is unique.
"It's not as strong and it's not as harsh. It has a lot more golden colour. We recognised that we had something a bit different. It's very versatile."
Two years ago Broighter Gold won product and packing awards at the IFEX show, bringing it to the attention of chefs across Ireland.
"Chefs are fantastic because they are using the oil when doing demonstrations."
Broighter Gold is stocked in independent local shops, butchers, farm shops and delis across Ireland.
Following on from the plain rapeseed oil, Leona launched four new flavours at last year's Balmoral Show: basil, lemon, chilli and rosemary and garlic.
The name Broighter Gold comes from a gold hoard found on the Kane's farm in 1896 by a local man.
Online sales of Broighter Gold products to America and beyond have rocketed over the past six months, due in part to the Kanes' appearance on UTV farming programme, Rare Breed.
Leona has taken on one full-time and one part-time member of staff and someone to help care for the couple's children, Jacob (5) and Emily (2) as she is planning to grow the business.
"Richard would have done all the pressing, and then I would have done all the bottling with help of family and friends but you can't always just have them coming in all the time."
She said Invest NI has been very good with providing advice. At the moment she is exploring different export options, with the Middle East on the cards. The small company is also part of Economussee, a Canadian-based artisan network, so plans are afoot to export to Canada and America soon.
Leona said: "We only grow a single variety in one soil type, that's what makes our oil unique.
"We are working hard and it has been great. You couldn't do it unless you loved it to be honest. It's long hours, but we enjoy it and it's nice to see the customer enjoy the end product."
Broighter Gold will be featured at the Balmoral Show this month.
Belfast Telegraph Digital