Producer of the Month: Mash Direct, 5 generations of farming
At a dinner party in 2003, whilst savouring a glass of the finest Irish whiskey, Martin Hamilton spoke to his close friend Tony Reid and told him of his dream to set up a production facility on his farm to produce Champ, a traditional Northern Irish dish of mashed potato and scallions (spring onions).
After twelve months of hard work and innovative engineering combined with a characteristic 'can do' attitude, that dream became a reality and Mash Direct was established.
Martin, a fifth generation farmer and ‘son of the soil’ saw the opportunity to return to older, heritage varieties of vegetables grown exclusively for flavour rather than for appearance. They developed a small plant on the farm to create a traditional cooking style.
Mash Direct has evolved from making traditional Ulster Champ for local butchers to a 130 strong workforce that now supplies over thirty products across the UK and Ireland as well as exporting to New York and Dubai. In recent years, Mash Direct has expanded it's capabilities beyond simply mashing to slicing, dicing, chopping and shredding to produce a multi-award winning range.
Martin, Tracy and their two sons Lance and Jack have grown Mash Direct into a successful household brand.
Located close to the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, Northern Ireland, this family-owned business is the market leader in meal accompaniments, producing an innovative range of quality, convenient vegetable and potato dishes ranging from traditional accompaniments of mashed potato and Champ to contemporary mini ready meals. All vegetables are steam-cooked to perfection for the delicious taste and texture of homemade food and are suitable for microwave and oven heating. The Mash Direct range is free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourings.
- What do you enjoy most about producing mash ?
There is nothing quite like seeing the process the whole way through and watching one of our products go from the fields that I grew up in, being mashed on the family farm and then sitting on a supermarket shelf. Everyone grows up knowing that there is nothing like the taste of home and the highlight of the job is the amount of people who approach us to tell us that our products are as good as, if not better than the food they make at home themselves.
- What achievement are you most proud of? [food related]
The proudest moment has when Jamie Oliver visited the farm and told us that our products are fantastic. It was a wonderful endorsement.
- Best budget tip?
Meal planning. It sounds dull but there is no better way to budget and eat healthily than planning ahead.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Grown Here Not Flown Here (I am cheating here as it is a slogan used by Food NI but it is fantastic!)
- What's on the menu this evening?
Something very easy for a Sunday night - some Champ (with a good dollop of butter) and sausages.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
We are available through all of the major retailers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland as well as through Ocado, select Asda stores and Booths in England and a growing number of Independent Deli's, Butchers and Farm Shops in the Greater London area.