New sales flow in Britain as Mash Direct celebrates 20 years of success

Comber-based Mash Direct, a market leader in potato products, vegetable sides and convenience foods last week strengthened its position in Britain, its most important market outside Northern Ireland, with another significant deal with major supermarket chain Morrisons.

The local family company, FoodNI member, also supplies most of the other supermarkets and grocers there, around 9,000, and stores abroad including in the US, Europe and Middle East.

As a result, the Co Down farm-based enterprise is now one of our most successful and innovative food producers.

As Mash Direct currently celebrates the 20th anniversary of its formation by husband and wife team Tracy, an experienced marketer, and Martin Hamilton, a successful local farmer, the company is now recognised as a remarkable local success story and an ideal role model for other smaller food and farming enterprises here.  

It owes much to the experience of the Hamilton family which has been farming the fields around Strangford Lough, now a conservation area, over six generations. The Mash Direct team has a wealth of understanding and knowledge of the area, its soil, produce, growing conditions and other food operations.

While Martin and Tracy are still involved, the business is now run by sons Jack, the chief executive, and commercial director Lance.

Lance says: ”It has been a journey fuelled by passion, dedication, and a strong sense of community. We’ve grown, adapted and innovated, always honouring our roots and the authentic taste of home that defines Mash Direct.”

Widely acclaimed for the quality and outstanding taste of its mashed potatoes and vegetables, the company has also gained international recognition for innovations such as beer battered chips, beer battered onion rings and chilly baby bakes that make it easier for everyone to enjoy fresh food and especially healthy and nutritious veggies.

The family-run business began in the farm kitchen in Comber and started selling from a stall at the iconic St George’s Market in Belfast. It now exports around 70 per cent of its award-winning potato and vegetable sides to major supermarkets and grocers worldwide.

The progressive and successful business has won a host of awards for quality and taste including the UK’s most prestigious Food Manufacturing Excellence Award and the Gold Award for Innovation from SIAL Middle East in Abu Dhabi, a first-time win for any Northern Ireland company. 

Mash Direct has also won a series of awards from Great Taste, Quality Food, Grocer New Product, Free From, and Blas na hEireann Irish Food Award.

“Innovation for customers is in our DNA and underpins everything we do. It drives our business forward,” continues Lance.

It’s a flexible and visionary business that’s geared to the requirements of retailers and customers in the dynamic global food sector. Mash Direct has striven successfully to set itself apart, especially from bigger businesses, in all the markets in which it is currently operating and in those targeted for growth in both short and long-terms.

The family enterprise successfully offers retailers food solutions for their customers. This means working closely with them to identify their requirements and coming up quickly with original and value propositions.

The remarkable business is now a long way from 2004 when Tracy and Martin began producing champ from their own potatoes. The champ, initially launched by them at markets here and in the Republic, followed extensive market research into what was then available and a series sampling sessions.

The popularity of the champ led the family to invest in facilities, products, markets and people in Comber. It has continued to do so and now operates from a sophisticated processing complex, shipping container loads of local products across the world. It’s a driven business that’s always exploring opportunities and developing exports to top retailers and online stores.

The outstanding achievements of Mash Direct ‘field to fork’ products highlight the growth of consumer demand for high-quality and versatile foods that can be incorporated into everyday family meals.  The full Mash Direct range is now low in saturated fat, 100 percent gluten-free and free from artificial flavourings and colourings.

The company is also committed to environmental management and assists in restoring farmland and biodiversity to improve the quality of water, air and soil. All packaging is 100 percent recyclable, ensuring that is has improved its environmental footprint as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Mash Direct has developed a vast solar collection system to provide sustainable energy to power the operations at the plant. Eco labelling has been developed to help consumers make more sustainable choices.  All Mash Direct products are grown and manufactured on site ‘from field to fork’ so the company has full control over the entire process.