Due to the plethora of cooking shows on TV a ‘new’ type of cooking oil has been brought to my attention. The ‘new’ oil in question is Rapeseed Oil. Curious to find out where it came from I did a little research only to find this impostor has been around for years under the disguise of another name.

That’s right, this gourmet ‘must have in the kitchen’ is little more than Canola oil with a new name, new packaging and no doubt a higher price point.

During the 19th century the oil from the plant ‘Brassica napus Linnaeus’ was harvested for use as steam engine lubricant, lamp oil, in plastics manufacturing and soap making. In its original form it was toxic to humans due to the high levels of erucic acid. It wasn’t until the Canadians developed a hybrid, with a lower level of erucic acid, that it was deemed safe for human consumption. In 1979, the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association began calling the edible rapeseed oil canola oil to help distinguish it from the toxic version. By the year 2000, oil from the rapeseed was the third leading source of vegetable oil in the world.

Some 30 years on, no doubt in part to the reality TV shows promoting that anyone can be a chef in their own kitchen, along with the movement of getting back to basics and whole foods in our cooking, along comes Canola oil reinvented as Rapeseed oil. Put it in a nice package, position it as a gourmet alternative and suddenly you have an old product that is more desirable to the consumer and hence boosts sales.

A similar story can be found all over our supermarket shelves.

I recently was informed by a sales rep from a reputable company that they sell identical coffee beans under two different brand names, one at a much higher price point. The packaging along with the brand name make one bag of beans more desirable than the other, therefore the consumer is willing to pay more for an identical product because of perceived quality. There are countless other examples I have heard about, home brand goods containing the same product as more expensive brands.

On the supermarket shelf, perception is everything. Names along with the way they are promoted are influential in our purchase decisions. That’s the power of marketing!