Omega 3 is the new black. Every new study endorses the magical, anti-inflammatory benefits of adding more Omega 3 to our diets. Inflammation can affect heart disease, stroke, bowel disease, depression, dementia, brain health, eye health, joint health and the immune system.
Inflammation is the one process working quietly away inside the body driving development of degenerative diseases and speeding the aging process.
Being so important, Omega 3 must be something that our bodies can produce in abundance, right? Nope. Like some sort of cruel joke, this vital fatty acid can only ever come from external sources.
Oily fish packs a huge Omega 3 punch, but if I’m honest, my diet is never going to include four servings of salmon and sardines per week. It’s just not going to happen.
And obviously vegans or vegetarians are going to have an issue with this.
FLAX SEED OIL AS A DELICIOUS CONDIMENT AND SUPPLEMENT
This is where Debbie Prebble and Totally Kiwi cold pressed flax seed oil comes in.
“Most people know flax seed oil as an Omega 3 supplement which you buy from a health food store,” Debbie explains. “Personally, I prefer to get my nutrition from my food rather than taking a supplement. So we decided to try and bring it out of the supplement space and into the food space.”
Taking your supplements as food? Would this mean spoonfuls of strange tasting potions poured over breakfast cereal each morning? Not at all, Debbie tells me.
“I had been adding garlic and herbs into my flax seed oil at home,” she says, “then drizzling it over food as an everyday condiment. I plate up a meal, think what flavour I want to add and then pour the oil over. Especially with steamed veggies - broccoli, for instance, can get a bit boring at times.”
Debbie and the team are often seen at food fairs where they are a popular stand, with their pretty array of flavoured oils laid out with bread for a taste. It’s often an eye-opener for people that what they are eating is actually a vital dietary supplement.
“We do a lot of expos where we give people the opportunity to taste,” says Debbie. “The feedback is always really good and people are understanding it. Consumers now are becoming very educated, especially those moving towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. But it is concerning how many people still don’t know anything about the Omegas and how vital they are, especially on a fish free diet.”
ASHBURTON BECOMES HOME
Debbie, originally from Burton-on-Trent in the UK, was sharing a gap year with daughter Jenna, travelling together through Australia and NZ in 2007.
“I worked for Dermalogica in the UK, who wanted to develop their brand in the South Island. Two weeks before we were due to fly back they asked me if I would like to do that and I said I’d love to. So it worked really, really well. Shortly after I met Daryl and the rest is history! Everything fell into place so easily and I just felt like it was meant to be.”
Daryl, Debbie’s kiwi husband was born and bred in Ashburton and took over management of the family farm in 1985. The family owned company Bio Oils produced cold pressed flax seed oil for export and the local market.
Debbie’s background was in sales and business development combined with an interest in health and nutrition from her work at Dermalogica. When she met Daryl, she could see the potential for diversity in his Bio Oil business and couldn’t help sharing her thoughts with him.
“Daryl one day flippantly said to me, ‘would you like to come and do those
things for me?’ Whilst I loved my job at Dermalogica, I was also excited at the challenge and of working for ourselves. It probably has been a little bit of my sales influence in wanting to drive it in different directions – whether they’ve been good decisions at times, I don’t know, but it’s been quite neat, seeing the brand grow.”
THE FAMILY EXPANDS WITH THE BUSINESS
Daryl’s family started Bio Oils in 1987 with a group of farmers and local businessmen. After Debbie joined 11 years ago, her son and daughter also decided to settle in New Zealand and join the family business.
“We’re all working there together and we do spend a lot of time at work, but we all make a conscious effort to make sure everything work related is discussed at work. It’s often the partners who will say ‘No more work talk’.”
Debbie is about to become a grandmother again for the second time and is desperate to get back from a business trip she is about to embark on in time for the birth.
“It’s awesome being a grandmother.” Debbie gives a broad smile. “Really awesome. It’s one thing having your own child but the feelings with a grandchild – it’s quite special. Now I try to only do four days a week and have Tuesdays off with George.
“Daryl’s whole family is from Ashburton, so it’s a very close community feel as well – giving back to the community by getting them to grow for us. We could get seed from overseas. It’s half the price and we could produce product much cheaper but that’s not what we’re about.”
ANIMAL SUPPLEMENTS OPEN UP A NEW MARKET
Debbie’s son and daughter Nick and Jen now own and run an animal supplement branch of the business, selling throughout New Zealand as well as exporting to Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, China and Taiwan. Their products are endorsed by clients such as Orana Wildlife Park and Hamilton Zoo where primates, hoofstock and cheetahs are fed the supplement for psychological and coat maintenance as well as joint health and general condition.
FLAVOURS PRODUCED BY DISTILLATION
Debbie used to flavour her own oils at home, by popping garlic cloves and other flavourings straight into the bottle, but discovered that commercially this was not possible as you introduce water which would make the oils unstable and prone to microbial growth. So instead they use the next best thing, natural food grade essential oils extracted by distillation from the real thing.
“I wanted that genuine flavour,” Debbie says, “I didn’t want that artificial flavour that doesn’t really taste like garlic.
“Last Christmas we did a Merry Mint flavour for garden peas and potatoes and a Festive Spice which tasted just like Christmas cake. We had a lady call us in February who loved the Festive Spice so much she bought all we had left!”
Debbie’s love for her family and newly adopted home are obvious as she explains the company’s values: Kaitiaki (guardianship of the land), Family and Integrity.
“Everything is traceable back to the farm. We’re all family, we’re very open and trust from our customers is very important, particularly with the Asian market. It took me two years to eventually get an order from our first Japanese customer but once they met our farmers, saw how transparent we are, and developed trust in us, they have remained a loyal customer for a long time.
“It costs money to stay healthy, but it’s more expensive to get sick,” the Totally Kiwi website points out. And with flavours like roasted cumin, garlic, citrus and chilli and lime, being healthy never tasted so good.