One of the UK’s first importers of a ‘magical’ oil which has health and cosmetic benefits has been given a grant by the Food and Drink iNet to help expand the business.

Azzelarab El Alaoui, who runs Nottingham-based Alassala Olives Ltd, launched Argan oil to the UK market at the end of 2011.

The organic oil, which comes from a small and specific part of Morocco, has been dubbed the golden oil for its health, nutrition and beauty properties. Rich in essential vitamins, it is beneficial for skin and hair, and also as part of a healthy diet.

It’s been used extensively in the beauty industry but Alassala Olives Ltd is one of only a handful of food importers currently selling Argan oil in the UK’s food sector that has been naturally processed at source to retain its healthy properties.

Now the Food and Drink iNet has supported the business with a £3,900 grant which has helped Alassala Olives Ltd to launch an e-commerce website – meaning both consumer and trade customers can buy products directly online.

Azzelarab has just unveiled and which he is using to promote and sell Argan oil – produced by women’s co-operatives in Morocco as part of the Marocavie project to protect the Berber tribes and the Argan Forest.

The websites will also help to promote the firm’s other products, including Moroccan olives and Moroccan Amlou paste – a product made with almonds and Argan oil, which is traditionally considered an aphrodisiac and which is often spread on bread or melba toast.

“The grant from the Food and Drink iNet has come at just the right time,” said Azzelarab, who match-funded the support with his own contribution.

“It will mean a lot in terms of generating new sales, as people will be able to get hold of this niche product more easily. If things take off, I hope it may also lead to the creation of job opportunities.”

Since launching last year, Azzelarab has secured around 40 outlets that are now selling or using Argan oil. Trade customers include retailers, pharmacies and restaurants in London – in areas such as Knightsbridge and Kensington – and in Bristol and Nottingham.

Argan oil has a range of proven benefits. It helps to reduce wrinkles and repair brittle hair; it relieves the symptoms of eczema and dry psoriasis, even in infants; it contains antioxidant vitamin E, which is good for regulating the heart and other organs; it helps reducing the risk of obesity; it contains sterols, which block cholesterol absorption from intestines and are anti-cancerous; it’s helpful in rheumatic disease and arthritis.

Alassala Organic Argan Oil is made from the nuts of the Argan tree, which is found only in the south west part of Morocco. The nuts are cracked by hand and the seed extracted and ground into paste oil. It is traditionally made by local Berber women who work in cooperatives and it can take ten to 12 hours to produce one litre of oil.

Through fair trade, Argan oil provides the Berber women with a dependable source of income, a means of improving their financial independence and it opens better access to health care and education.

Richard Worrall, director of the Food and Drink iNet, said: “This project is very important to provide new routes to market and increase turnover of this fledgling business with their products.

“The Food and Drink iNet supports innovation for food and drink firms in the East Midlands, and this project fits our health and lifestyle theme perfectly. We are also keen to see the ethical aspect of supporting Berber communities.”

The £3,900 grant will support the firm with new product development, introduction to new markets, marketing and information communications technology.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), The Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands.

It has developed an effective network to encourage the collaboration of academic expertise and knowledge, and local food and drink business innovation needs.

It aims to build on the tradition of innovation in the food and drink industry in the region by helping to create opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and to help research, develop and implement new products, markets, services and processes.

The Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Nottingham Trent University, The University of Lincoln, and The University of Nottingham. It is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with advisors covering the East Midlands region.

For more information about the iNet and grant eligibility visit

Issued by Nottingham PR company Perfect 10 PR