Mash Direct started out like many Irish food businesses: in a home kitchen. Martin and Tracy Hamilton, fifth-generation farmers, were looking for ways to add value to the crops they grew.
Tracy started making champ and selling it at a local market and it took off to where they are today, with over 100 employees and their quick-serve mashed potato and vegetable products sold throughout Ireland, the UK and even Dubai and New York - and all from the factory located directly on their farm. This is a true family business, with Martin and Tracy’s two sons as well as a few aunts, uncles and cousins working together.
The Hamilton farm is located in the rolling countryside near Comber, County Down, in one of the best potato-growing regions in the world, sheltered as it is by the Mourne Mountains and Ards Peninsula and protected from frosts by Strangford Lough.
Their product range is made mostly from their own crops, but what they can’t provide themselves, they buy from neighbouring local farms. They use heritage vegetable varieties because of the superior taste and steam cook them in bespoke ovens to lock in their natural flavour.
The produce is harvested from the fields at 5 a.m., arrives at the factory door at 6 a.m. and is steam cooked, mashed, packaged and loaded onto the lorry by 11 a.m. – a remarkable turnaround time by any standards.
As Tracy herself said, their products are often fresher than the fresh veg on the shelf. They’re also totally natural, with no artificial additives, preservatives or colourings, just like the mash you’d make in your own kitchen - their shelf life simply is simply down to blast chilling the food.
Visitors to the farm have included Jamie Oliver, David Cameron and Prince Andrew. Their framed awards are stacked five and six deep on the hallway floor because they don’t have enough wall space for them. This is an inspiring and innovative business that is going from strength to strength, proving that food can be fresh, healthy and local as well as convenient.
Mash Direct products are widely available in supermarkets and independent stores in Ireland and the UK, and in selected outlets elsewhere.