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Food and Drink Forum helps Nottingham firm launch Argan oil

02 December 2011

Business support organisation The Food and Drink Forum is helping a Nottingham importer to become one of the first companies to bring a ‘magical’ oil to the UK food and drink market

Argan Oil, which comes from a small and specific part of Morocco, has been dubbed the golden oil for its health, nutrition and beauty properties. Rich in essential vitamins, it’s beneficial for skin and hair, and also as part of a healthy diet.

It’s been used extensively in the beauty industry but Azzelarab El Alaoui, who runs Nottingham-based Alassala Olives Ltd, aims to be one of only a handful of importers currently selling Argan oil in the UK’s food sector.

He plans to sell the oil to delis, health stores and top restaurants, and has been working with The Food and Drink Forum to launch the product.

The Food and Drink Forum’s technical manager Richard Wigley has been supporting the launch of Organic Moroccan Argan Oil with advice on labelling, legal organic certification and shelf-life. He’s also helped with information about the best ways to get the product showcased to buyers, retailers and others who might be interested in Argan oil.

“Argan oil is a very interesting product, and Azzelarab is passionate about raising its profile and bringing it to the UK,” said Richard Wigley. “As a business support organisation with experience of helping companies to develop and launch new products, The Food and Drink Forum has been delighted to help him with his project.”

Argan oil is made from the nuts of the Argan tree, which is found only in the south west part of Morocco. The nuts are cracked by hand and the seed extracted and ground into paste oil. It is traditionally made by local Berber women who work in cooperatives and it can take ten to 12 hours to produce one litre of oil.

Through fair trade, Argan oil provides the Berber women with a dependable source of income, a means of improving their financial independence and it opens better access to health care and education.

Before modern times the women would collect the undigested Argan pits from the waste of goats that climb the trees to feed on the fruit.

Azzelarab, who is Moroccan and moved to the UK eight or nine year ago, founded his company Alassala Olives Ltd a year ago. Alassala means originality and he aims to supply unusual and original products.

“The south west of Morocco is very well visited by German tourist, especially the biggest city in that region Agadir,” he said. “They were the first Europeans to show great interest in the benefits of Argan oil. They were fascinated by how Berber women in that region look very young and have no wrinkles and how people look so healthy in general. After their research they found out that diet is behind that. Argan oil is a fundamental element in diet of the people in that region. When they analysed Argan oil they found it was rich in vitamin E and has omega three, six and nine, and it’s the only oil that contains all four elements.”

In 1999, UNESCO added the Argan tree-growing area to the World Heritage List.

Just as Britons caught on to the benefits of eating olive oil, so Argan oil is now starting to find favour, said Azzelarab, who is based in Bulwell.

“It’s been called golden oil, magical oil and miracle oil,” he said.

His food product is suitable for dipping, drizzling, on salads and for sweets and pastries.

“Other parts of Europe recognised the benefits of Argan oil some time ago,” said Azzelarab. “I have done the research and although there are a small number of people importing it to the UK there are no big companies or nationally recognised names that are importing Argan oil.

“I’m very grateful for the expertise of The Food and Drink Forum, which has helped me since I launched my business.”

The Food and Drink Forum, based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, was launched in 1998 as a not-for-profit membership-led organisation to stimulate and support the sustainable growth and development of the food and drink industry in the East Midlands.

It aims to:

• Champion the food and drink sector in the East Midlands.

• Develop strategic influencing partnerships within and outside the East Midlands.

• Act as a centre for information and knowledge on all subjects relating to the food and drink sector in the region.

• Stimulate and facilitate sustainable change within companies of all sizes across the food chain.

• Generate income and secure resources to meet the needs of a high-quality service.

• Promote the food and drink sector to future employees through education and the raising of skills.

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