“It’s just so surreal. It feels brilliant,” reflects Leona Kane from the kitchen of her Limavady farm house.
She’s talking about the latest exciting chapter in her artisan journey which will soon see her Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil stocked in a chain of supermarkets across Dubai.
The Middle Eastern city, characterised by luxury and opulence, is a world away from the rolling fields in the shadow of Binevenagh where the cooking oil originates. Despite their apparent differences, Limavady and the Kane family business will soon be visible on shop shelves and kitchens in this part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which boasts a population of over three million people.
The opportunity to extend the reach of Broighter Gold into this far-flung corner of the world came about through an Invest NI-organised inward buyer mission, which took place just last month and the speed of the transaction took Leona by surprise.
“We had an initial meeting with the buyers here at the house and they were impressed with the farm and how we were doing things so then we were invited to a second meeting in Belfast. I had 15 minutes to sell to them. I never got a word in and I didn’t feel very positive at this stage. Then the next thing I knew, the Director, who had flown in especially for the meeting, said ‘yes, we’ll take a pallet, how soon can you get it out to us?’. All being well it should be there by now. It just feels brilliant and now I’m really looking forward to seeing it on the shelf,” she said.
It’s a hugely significant development for the family business which could signal the start of a growing presence in the Middle East marketplace. The Al Maya group have over 70 outlets and act as a distributor to other retailers in the UAE and Oman.
Looking back on the incredible rise of Broighter Gold, it’s hard to believe it all started off quite accidentally. Cooking dinner one evening in 2006, Leona’s husband Richard came to the rescue with unfiltered, cold rapeseed oil from the farm when she realised she had ran out of olive oil. Impressed by its taste and cooking performance, Leona delved further into its potential and quickly realised she had ‘liquid gold’ on her hands thanks to its versatility, flavour and long list of health benefits.
Her own discovery takes its name from one of Ireland’s most famous treasure finds. In a case of perfect synchronicity, the original ‘Broighter Gold’, a priceless collection of Iron Age gold artefacts, was unearthed on the Kane family farm in 1896. Over 100 years later, and with Leona’s golden products now taking centre stage, their prominence is helping to share this unique part of the story of Limavady.
Today, the rapeseed plants are blooming brightly in the fields around the farm adding their own golden colour which transforms the landscape. The sea of yellow flowers will soon give way to small green pods which hold the tiny seeds from which the oil and all its natural goodness is extracted. The entire production process takes place on the farm, with Leona’s efforts supported by her husband Richard and a small team of employees.
If you want to get a glimpse of this for yourself, Broighter Gold is part of the Économusée Network, which sees producers open their doors to visitors who want to see an artisan at work and find out more about their story.
And as Dubai beckons for Broighter Gold, it’s clear that there is much more yet to come for this leading force in the thriving artisan network across the Causeway Coast and Glens.
To find out more, including stockists near you, go to www.broightergold.co.uk or follow @broightergold on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.