Single Origin is one of those terms often used when describing food or natural products that many people don’t fully understand. In a world where people are going wild with marketing and throwing buzz words all over the place it’s difficult to differentiate between substance and gimmick. However, it’s not just a marketing ploy, and it’s worth knowing about to help you make better purchasing choices.
Let’s start with the definition of single origin;
A single origin ingredient is sourced from a single known geographical region or farm.
You’ll often see this term used with coffee, wine, chocolate, tea, and of course oils. In general it’s a reassuring sign, as long as the origin of the ingredient is named on the packaging, for starters it means the people selling you this product actually know where it comes from and care about what they are selling! Surprisingly with the amount of middle-men and distributors around, a lot of brand owners don’t know much about their product at all, and much of what you are paying for goes towards paying these middle-men, and not towards the quality of the item.
Using argan oil as an example, almost all the argan oil you’ll find is of mixed origin. When you are dealing with large companies or big distributors of argan oil, which sadly are often the ones selling to small ‘conveniently ignorant’ but well-branded companies you want to love, it’s often just about making money. This means selling as much as possible with no qualms about ethical compromise. Given the artisan nature of argan oil, one farm can only produce so much and so the oil is often collected from many sources and mixed into a big pot. This means more scope for contamination (and rancid oil!) and other hygiene implications. It also means you don’t get as good a flavour as you are missing out on things such as terroir and everything turns a bit ‘murky’. Health benefits and beautifying properties are also compromised as with mixed expiry dates and processing methods, freshness is reduced. Other reasons people mix sources of ingredients, often from many different countries, is to save costs because by mixing a good quality source with a poor quality source the end result is not 'that bad’.
At Arganic we name our partner farm (Sidi Yassine) on our packaging. We are also the only fully traceable argan oil brand in the UK, something we are very proud of.
Peanut butter is very trendy at the moment, with lots of niche brands dominating the market, but what disappoints me is that very few state what country, let alone region or farm their peanuts come from. In fact the only peanut butter brand that I’ve seen name the source of their peanuts is Mani Life. Why is it not policy to name at least the country the main ingredient in your item is from?
To conclude, single origin is not an assurance of high quality but it’s a good sign. As with everything, the more details a company can provide the better and the more questions we ask as consumers the more we can put pressure on brands to be more transparent.