Scotland's larder: Lynn Mann of Supernature oil

Lynn Mann of Supernature oil tells us about making award-winning cold pressed rapeseed oil, and what a blooming marvellous adventure it has all been.

Published 7th Jun 2021
Updated 16 th Jun 2021

Lynn Mann first came to Carrington Barns Farm as a children's television researcher to find out more about the farm's venture into ostrich farming.

However she got more than she bargained for, as she ended up falling in love with the farmer.

She giggles and admits to being completely bowled over, "He was just gorgeous, tall, suntanned with blonde hair and I was all tongue tied which just wasn't like me.

"The next week the crew went back to film. Normally I didn't go back for the filming, but I asked the producer if I could go back please, and basically I've been here ever since," she said.

Chris and Lynn Mann of Supernature cold pressed rapeseed oil.
Chris and Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Although that venture didn't last long, Chris, now her husband,, continued with just traditional mixed arable farming.

Chris's family have been tenant farmers on the Rosebery Estate at Carrington Barns for 165 years.

Time for a change

But ten years ago in 2011, the couple decided to diversify again and started growing oilseed rape.

They thought they would start the venture small, as Lynn explains, "it really was going to be a wee sideline."

The first year they travelled to Northumberland to press the seed and then they collected the oil two weeks later which they bottled themselves.

Lynn said, "we are quite unusual, as we grow a spring crop at end of April which we harvest in September.

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"We kind of did that by accident the first year, as we were too late to plant a winter crop but we found we got this really light buttery oil.

Supernature oil or rapeseed oil
A field of rapeseed which is harvested for oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"We get a slightly less yield, but we think it makes a difference in the taste."

The idea was if it didn't work, any extra seed could be sold to the grain merchant.

Eyes on the prize

However within a few months they had won a Scotland Food and Drink excellence award for their original cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

Lynn said, "it has really just evolved from there. Next we thought we would try a few infusions which also won accolades, and we thought maybe we can do more with this."

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Since launching in 2011, they have won seven Great Taste Awards, three Quality Food Awards and a Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Award.

​They are the only cold pressed rapeseed oil producer in the UK to have won three Quality Food Awards.

A few of the different infused oils from Supernature oil.
A few of the different infused oils from Supernature oil. Picture Lisa Ferguson

While other producers were extending their ranges with dressing or mayonnaise, Lynn said, "we stuck with the infusions and we now have 15 including; garlic, chilli, lemon, truffle oils, dill, tarragon, lemon grass."

They went down the whole plant extract route, finding a company who distilled the entire plant, Lynn said, "so you get all the different flavour notes."

Within a year they had invested in their own press and bottling equipment, and since then they have just reinvested the profits and grown the business organically, Lynn said, "so the business has really grown arms and legs."

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All about the girl

As a self confessed townie, Lynn grew up in Kirkintilloch, and her dad was a serial entrepreneur, who emigrated with her mother to America when they were in their twenties.

Lynn said, "my dad loved the American way of life but my mum wasn't so keen, so they came back here.

"They were born and brought up in Glasgow but my business sense comes from him definitely."

Just like her father, Lynn has had a varied career path.

After school she got a full time job working in a genetics lab at The Sick Kids Hospital in Glasgow, but worked evenings in a pub to earn extra cash, she said, "I've had lots of different jobs."

Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

These included selling water filters, doing admin at Glasgow police headquarters, merchandiser for a lighting company, and an aerobics instructor, tv researcher and director.

She said, "I counted them all with my son Jack who is 21, and there were 22 different jobs that I did in my twenties."

Although she was reasonably academic she didn't go to university after school, she instead ended up going back to Edinburgh University in her thirties to train as a counsellor and therapist.

But it was while she was taking time out to look after her daughter, Annie who is now 13, that she got roped into the farm, when they started growing rapeseed.

Labelling bottles of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Labelling bottles of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Both children have helped with the business Lynn said, "we once got an enormous order for 23 000 of our 100ml bottles of lemon grass oil from Germany, and they both moaned about putting on labels and packing the boxes.

"Supernature oil has been a good experience for the whole family.

"What was supposed to be a wee sideline has ended up earning the same as the whole farm income so we are glad we started it, especially with farming being so uncertain and at the mercy of the weather.

"It has brought a vibrancy to the farm with other people working here, and there is a buzz to the place."

In the beginning

Lynn explained, a graphic designer friend, helped with the packaging and the label design and said, 'how are you going to sell this stuff? It is not as if you can just put boxes of it in the back of the car and drive around Edinburgh.'

Lynn said, "but that is exactly what I did, literally with bottles of oil in the boot of the car.

"The first day in February, I went to 27 places. The last I place I went to was Saunderson's the butchers in Tollcross, and they bought a box of oil from me, I must have looked desperate."

She was delighted to have made her first sale and admits, "it might have been a different story if I hadn't."

Chris and Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Chris and Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

That day she also gifted bottles of oil to restaurants, including one for Martin Wishart.

He phoned her the next night and said, 'I've tried cold pressed oil before but yours is the nicest I've every tried and we want to use it in our restaurant.'

Lynn explains that they went on to sell at farmers markets and via local shops and delis and grew the business.

World Wide Sensation

"We don't actively go out chasing exports, but when it comes to us, we are quite happy to do it, Lynn said.

"So I would never have imagined that we'd send our oil to Borneo or to The Middle East, or Iceland where a buyer wanted it for his high end supermarkets."

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Lynn explains, the benefits of Supernature oils, saying: "Extra virgin olive oil was always thought of as the healthiest oil you could use, but cold pressed rapeseed oil has got half the saturated fat and ten times the amount of omega 3.

"It has also got a really high burn point, so it retains all the health benefits at a high heat."

Everyone is familiar with heady smell of rapeseed?

Lynn explains, "you don't get the cabbage smell or taste with cold pressed oil.

"I think because we grow the spring crop which is much lighter with a more buttery taste."

Close up of oil seedrape flowering  Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Close up of oil seedrape flowering Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The crop, flowers first before producing a seed pod with big black, poppy-like seeds inside.

These are crushed to extract the oil and filtered under pressure, which leaves only oil to be bottled and crushed husks and pulp, which comes out of a machine in pellet form.

Lynn said, "we sell that to a neighbouring farmer to feed her cattle, so there is no waste at all."

The rapeseed we grow can be dried and stored it up to two years before we have to press it, and then it has 18 months shelf life bottled, so we have a big time window which gives us really good flexibility.

She said, "we also started buying seed direct from neighbouring farmers on the Rosebery estate, to keep the provenance of the product. It also means we can make relatively unlimited amount of oil if we have a big order.

Hard work pays off

"Supernature has been a roller coaster adventure, in the early days childcare was the biggest hurdle.

"Chris grows all the crops and does the production side and I kind of do all the sales and marketing. We don't argue much about it now, we just tend to get on with it.

Chris Mann in the bottling plant at Supernature oil.
Chris Mann in the bottling plant at Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"It has been an amazing journey, I was initially only going to help for six months before going back to being a therapist but for both us, it has been such a brilliant thing.

"It has created a really vibrancy to the farm, and added value to what Chris was already doing, breathing life into an old tenancy and the kids can see that you can take an idea and run with it," she said.

Gorgeous George

"With Supernature we have had so many adventures, and I have even met the Queen and George Clooney."

She went to a business awards evening hosted by George Clooney, "I always carry oil with me in my handbag, white and black truffle oil on this occasion.

"Tom Hunter was by the stage, so I went over and said, "Do you think you could give these to George it is just oil and a wee leaflet about Supernature."

"He said, 'stay here and give them to him yourself,' I said no, and ran back to my seat.

"Tom Hunter said, 'George, this wee lassie has a present for you.' and he came over and he was so charming and then gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"Luckily, my friend took a photo otherwise I would have thought I was imaging it.

"All round it has been a great experience, it has hard work when we set it up but we don't regret it at all."

Chris and Lynn Mann of Supernature oil. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Supernature Oil

Carrington Barns Farm

Tel: 01875 830200

• READ MORE: Scotland's larder: Sheena Horner from Galloway Chillies

Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.
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