Wicklow farmer has healthy oils market sussed out

Wicklow farmer has healthy oils market sussed out
Keith Symes, second from right, and the rest of the Sussed team.

A unique plant oil blend has 11 times more Omega 3 than olive oil as well as the health benefits of fish oils.

That’s according to Sussed, the brand behind Omega 3 DHA Oil, a combination of rapeseed oil and algae oil, one of three heart-healthy products it produces at its base in Co Wicklow.

Founder Keith Symes, whose family are fourth-generation farmers, had studied agricultural engineering at Tralee Institute of Technology and mechanical engineering at the University of Glamorgan in Wales, before returning to the family farm in Hawkstown Lower.

He was growing rapeseed and while recognising its health benefits began experimenting with different seed varieties to find one with a light and nutty flavour. He obtained a small oil press and carried out trials in his kitchen.

He explains that extra virgin cold pressed oils can be identified by their darker colour. 

“Oils are like wines; it’s down to the variety of seeds, the land, the weather, the fertiliser; these all have a large impact on the flavour and quality.”

Mr Symes received funding from his Local Enterprise Office to build a production facility and set up Wicklow Rapeseed Oil in late 2013.

However, recognising that the rapeseed oil market was saturated, he set out to find a product with a unique selling point.

His search led to the creation of Sussed in April 2017 with assistance from Bord Bia’s Superbrands programme. 

The brand’s primary goal, to source ingredients which are good for your heart, is in keeping with his own healthy lifestyle. 

As well as spending most of his time outdoors on the farm, he engages in sports such as kayaking, snowboarding and biking in his free time.

Sussed has three products which use extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil: 2 Cal Spray, Rapeseed Oil and Omega 3 DHA Oil. 

The latter, a blend of algae oil and rapeseed oil, is unique in the European market. Mr Symes says.

He explains the science behind the blend. 

“Any plant oil, be it rapeseed oil, olive oil or whatever, the Omega 3 comes in ALA format, and your body has to convert it to EPA and DHA, and some of it gets lost.”

Most people are aware of the benefits of fish oils. 

“When you buy a fish oil, it’s in the correct format. It’s good for your memory, your heart and your cholesterol.”

He says that fish obtain Omega 3 from the algae, “so we’ve gone straight to the source.” 

He says consumers who use this oil don’t need to take fish oil supplements.

Mr Symes says that Omega 3 DHA Oil has 11 times more Omega 3 than olive oil and contains Omega 6 and 9 in the correct proportions as well as having just 6% saturated fat. 

The versatile product can be used on salads and safely for cooking as rapeseed oil has a high burn point at 200 degrees Celsius.

Sussed’s products can aid healthy weight loss. Its 2 Cal Spray has been mentioned by Unislim and Mr Symes says just three or four sprays is sufficient for cooking a dish. 

“It fits their profile because Unislim is all about losing weight the healthy way. On the programme, you can use as much as you like and you’re not going to get penalised.”

Sussed is part of the Origin Green programme and Love Irish Food, and concern for the environment as well as health is at the core of the brand.

Mr Symes says the oil pressing process has zero waste as the by-product of the husks is used to produce animal feed.

“The process is simple: we clean the seeds and store in a shed with fans to keep it cool. Then it’s through a cleaning machine. 

"It goes into a cold press which squeezes the seeds, the oil comes out and then it’s naturally filtered and bottled.”

Sussed products are available across the country in SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and Tesco with Lidl stocking the 2 Cal Spray. 

However, Mr Symes has “put the handbrake” on expanding into the UK market because of uncertainty around Brexit.

An Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland has enabled the team of four to develop its next product, which is coming out later in the year. 

Power Bites, made from rapeseed oil, dates and almonds with a vitamin and mineral blend, will be aimed at those with busy and active lifestyles.

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