The gluten-free bread and home-grown oils made in Scotland
The Aberdeenshire food scene has a well-earned reputation for nurturing innovation
Where many parts of Scotland support their local food scene with annual awards, the North East has a particularly strong record of encouraging new ideas and new businesses. Established as far back as 1990, the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards provide annual testimony not only to the richness and diversity of the local larder, but the progressive approach that characterises many businesses in the region. With small start-ups rubbing shoulders with established household names, the 2013 awards judged an impressive 60 entries from 23 food and drink companies from the North East alone.
A great example of the forward, innovative thinking encouraged by the awards, Pulsetta is a range of breads made from pulses, making them suitable for coeliacs and other gluten-related issues. The mastermind behind the enterprise, Dr Karsten Karcher, explains: ‘We’re attempting a world first. It’s an incredibly exciting time.
‘Basically, we have created a bread, made from pulses that can be considered one of your ‘five a day’’. With a Scottish-wide distribution deal on the cards, Karcher, who has a gluten intolerance of his own, believes food innovation is about finding a gap in the market:
‘Anyone who’s experienced the effects of food intolerance will know how uncomfortable and difficult it makes your life. And with a wife too who is vegetarian, I know what it feels like to be frustrated by food choices.’
Karcher has taken some of inspiration from around the globe: ‘I was travelling a lot on business, and was really influenced by the food in places like South Africa and thought we could do something really exciting here in Scotland.’
With his academic science and business background and entrepreneurial flair, Karcher worked with a chef friend to create a patent that would mean he could manufacture a range of bread and rolls free from gluten, wheat, milk, egg, soy, and all other major food allergens. Packed with vitamins, minerals, vegetable protein and fibre, and baked by local bakers JG Ross, Karcher believes his success has come from thinking outside the box:
‘Right now in Scotland it feels like there’s this new generation of innovative companies and a renaissance for entrepreneurial vision and start-ups; it’s about building on that.
A similar vision can certainly be found with fellow innovation award winner Ola Oils. Inspired by the oilseed rape growing on their farm near Inverurie, husband and wife team John and Connie Sorrie have created a highly successful range of home-grown oils. Named ‘Ola’ after the Gaelic word for oil, the pair were among the first in Scotland to press and produce rapeseed oil, beginning in 2008 and subsequently branching out into a range of oil-based products including: infused oils, marinades and dressings, as well as aioli, chilli jam, and oatcakes. Determined to stay independent, you won’t find Ola Oils in supermarkets but rather in local delis, farmers’ markets and specialist stores.
‘It was really my husband John’s idea,’ explains Connie Sorrie. ‘He thought we could try and do something with all this rapeseed we were producing. No one in Scotland was doing anything similar so we gave it a go.’ Sorrie believes part of the product’s charm, as well as being tasty, is that people can put a face to its name:
‘People in the North East are incredibly supportive of each other. And as buyers of food, we’ve got to a point where as people we like traceability.’
Building on their local ethos, the Sorries also run the local greengrocers in Inverurie and sell as much good, local produce as they can: ‘It’s an exciting time for Scotland, and it’s nice to think we’re a small part of that.’