ReGen Brands Recap #69

Matthieu Kohlmeyer @ La Tourangelle

Can Cooking Oils Go Regen?

La Tourangelle is a French-American family-owned & operated culinary oil maker based out of Woodland, California. They produce a wide variety of oils including olive, coconut, avocado, and various nut and seed oils. They’re currently supporting regenerative agriculture with their Regenerative Organic Certified® Sunflower Oil and their soon-to-be-released regenerative olive oil. La Tourangelle products can be found online and in retailers across the US. 



Coming To America

La Tourangelle began in 1867 as a small, artisanal walnut oil mill in France. In the 1990s, Matthieu’s family purchased the mill and his father scaled operations to a semi-industrial level. In the early 2000s, Matthieu took his entrepreneurial spirit to California where he found an abundance of nut farms. He quickly found an investor partner and built a small mill, mimicking La Tournagelle’s operations in France. 

In 2002, La Tourangelle officially launched as a CPG brand in the United States. They continue to produce nut and seed oils from farms in California and source their extra virgin olive oil from one of the first organic olive cooperatives in Spain. They recently began building a mill in Peru to upcycle avocados rejected from exporters into high-quality oil. 


The ‘Artisan Made’ Difference 

La Tourangelle strives to be a “premium affordable brand” that provides quality, excellent-tasting oils. They maintain the same artisanal approach as the original mill in France, though now powered by solar. They take great care in processing their oils in a way that maintains the nutrients and flavor. 

Matthieu explains that oils can be extracted from fruits, seeds, and nuts physically or chemically. The chemical process often yields more oil, but it can also extract contaminants that then have to be removed through additional refinement. The downside is that the more an oil is refined, the more the “good stuff” – antioxidants – are removed along with the “bad stuff”.  La Tourangelle uses a physical process, pressing the seed, nut or fruit to extract the oil. This approach maintains the nutrients and antioxidants in the oil. They then use a very careful, minimal physical refinement process, lightly heating the oils to remove contaminants and free fatty acids. 

At the end of the day though, a high-quality oil must come from a high-quality primary product. Another way in which La Tourangelle maintains quality is their product sourcing. Most oil companies work with co-packers and traders who aggregate oils from many producers with different practices and product qualities. La Tourangelle has direct trade relationships with many of their supplier farms, ensuring they know the growers and their farm practices. The few oils they don’t produce in-house come from other oil mills that embrace the same artisan processes and ingredient standards, with La Tourangelle running all their oils through an extensive audit process before bottling them. 

Even their packaging helps preserve quality. They use lightweight, tin cans commonly used in France. Since oil is highly sensitive to light, which causes it to break down and lose nutrients,the tin cans help protect the oil and maintain its shelf life. Plus, the tins are recyclable and have a lower greenhouse-gas footprint than shipping heavy, glass containers. 


Real Food. Minimally Processed. And No Cheating!

Do seed oils really deserve their bad rap? Why should we consume extra virgin oil versus “light”, super refined oil? Matthieu dispels some myths and controversies in the oil industry and explains how in some cases, consumers may not even be getting the oil they think they are. 

Matthieu’s take on which types of oils are bad or good is this: it’s not about the oil, it’s about how it’s processed and how it’s served. As mentioned above, the more refined an oil is, the more antioxidants have been removed. In Matthieu’s opinion, the biggest threat to our health is that most of the oils on our shelves have been hyper-processed, and that they are then used as ingredients in other processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. 

“If you extract the oil carefully and you don't refine it, even if it comes from seeds, it's great for you because it has tons of antioxidants and it's gonna make your body much stronger and you're gonna age better, and it's gonna be great. If you have overly processed avocado or if you refine the hell of your olive oil, I don't know that it's that great either.” - Matthieu

Another controversy in the oil industry: oil scamming. La Tourangelle’s dedication to quality control and direct sourcing ensures their oil is legitimate. Matthieu explains how La Tourangelle conducts lab tests to analyze the fatty acid profile of their oils. Each oil has a unique fatty acid content, so the lab results can be compared to the product’s standard profile. Some oil traders have been attempting to mimic fatty acid profiles of higher priced oils, using cheaper oils with similar profiles or mixing oils. This is becoming increasingly common for avocado oil as it skyrockets in demand and becomes more expensive and difficult to source. Recently, countries around the globe agreed on an international Codex standard to help maintain avocado oil integrity. 

Matthieu’s advice at the end of the day: The best oil comes from real foods that are minimally processed and regeneratively grown. Good oil will have flavor. Keep it simple and choose the oil that has a good taste.


Their First Regenerative Products

The inspiration for launching regenerative SKUs came from Matthieu’s realization in the power of CPG brands to create markets and drive impact. Outside of Dr. Bronner’s Regenerative Organic Certified® Coconut Oil, Matthieu didn’t see many other regenerative oils in the market. After searching for regenerative organic producers, he finally found a regenerative sunflower farm in California and partnered with them to launch their first ROC™ Sunflower Oil.

“I really came to realize we'd build a lot of muscle, and I wanted to put this muscle to work for the right things” - Matthie

It’s important to note the unique facets of oil value chains that make regenerative sourcing more complex. Many oils are upcycled, created from the by-products of other supply chains. For example, grapeseed oil exists as a byproduct of the wine industry. The supply of regenerative grape seeds depends first on the existence of regenerative wine. For this reason, La Tourangelle is focusing on developing regenerative SKUs for products that are grown specifically for oil, such as sunflower, flax, and olives. To add further complexity to the business case, seed pressing creates two products: oil and protein cakes used for animal feed. The case for regenerative is stronger if the animal feed buyer is also willing to pay a premium for the feed. 


50% Market Share 4 Regen

Matthieu believes one of the biggest hurdles for expanding market share for regenerative brands is convincing the farmers to invest in regenerative organic certification. While he has seen many farmers already applying regenerative agricultural practices, they are often hesitant to go fully organic or complete all the steps necessary for certification, especially if they do not have a guaranteed buyer. However, he is hopeful that increased retailer and brand interest in regenerative will build farmer’s confidence that regenerative is not just another fad. 

“To transition to organic, you have to have three years of organic farming. You need a bunch of audits and it [costs] money and then a lot of times you won't find someone who's going to buy your organic crop…It has to be an obvious financial choice and it's a long-term choice for them. You know, as far as CPG, you can kind of pivot and change but these guys are planning 5 years out if not way more.” - Matthieu


This ReGen Recap was written by Katey Finnegan

The illustrations were created by Stacey Shaller

You can check out the full episode with Matthieu Kohlmeyer @ La Tourangelle HERE

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