About 50 years ago, Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren argued in a famous song about the relative merits of “Bangers and Mash like my mother used to make!” To many school children over the years, mashed potatoes have never been top of their choice.

However, all this has now changed thanks to Martin and Tracy Hamilton and their business partner, Tony Reid. At a dinner party in 2003, whilst savouring a glass of the finest Irish Whiskey, Martin Hamilton spoke to his host and friend Tony Reid about his dream of setting up a production facility on his own farm to produce Champ (mashed potato and spring onions). After much discussion, determination and hard work, one year later that dream had become a reality. A small factory had been built and the company Mash Direct Ltd had been formed.

Director Tracy Hamilton says, “This has become a very exciting business in just a very short space of time. It was a very bold decision to take at that time but it has proved to be the right decision for us – we were in the right place at the right time. We started using our own potatoes from our own farm, as this is a very good growing area close to the shores of Strangford Lough near Comber County Down. However, as demand has grown, we now grow about 55% of our output with other surrounding farms that meet our quality standards, supplying the remaining 45%.”

Martin and his wife and business partner Tony had been successfully growing and selling vegetables for over 20 years. Martin himself is a fifth generation son of the soil. Their son Lance has now joined the Company having successfully completed a degree in Agrifood Marketing with Business Studies at Harper Adams University College in Newport, Shropshire.

Martin had started farming on the family farm and then farmed with his brother. On the day that his first son was born, he made the decision to go out on his own.

They decided to return to the traditional tastes their mothers and grandmothers used to know, now almost lost. The Company sources its own seed for flavour and then controls the whole process, from sowing the seed, farming, harvesting and processing. Using vegetable varieties grown for taste – not appearance and using no artificial additives, preservatives or colourings – they developed a small plant on the farm to recreate a traditional cooking style. A number of pieces of equipment were commissioned and specially built including a unique masher and a steam cooker. Tony Reid, who has his own engineering business and is very entrepreneurial, designed this equipment. Martin had looked at buying the plant but Tony said “let’s build our own”! There are now three of these units in operation with a fourth to be commissioned shortly.

Tracy continues “This has been a huge adventure for us. My own background was in business studies so when we started the Company, I went back to college to study accounting and IT in an attempt to make ourselves self-sufficient. My brother is in charge of sales to the UK market while many other family members are now working in the Company. We now employ 95 people and have been building and extending our plant ever since we began. Currently we are growing at the rate in excess of 30% per year.”

“It took us one year to get going and to gain our accreditation. We also had to trial our steam processing before we could launch. We began by supplying to local independents and we also went to the St George’s Market in Belfast, doing everything we could do to gain the maximum amount of feedback from our customers.”

Mash Direct is available in the following stores as well as many Independent stores throughout the UK and Ireland.

Asda – Ireland and Scotland

Dunnes Stores – All Ireland

Musgrave SuperValu/Centra – All


Superquinn – All Ireland

Co-op – N Ireland

Dobbies – N Ireland and Scotland

Tesco – N and S Ireland and


Sainsbury’s – Ireland and Scotland

Wholefoods – London

Booths Supermarket – England

Morrisons – UK

NISA – UK and Ireland

Spar – UK

Shoprite – Isle of Man


Mash Direct has just had its first product listed by J.D. Wetherspoon – carrot and parsnip – and shortly are to have their second one added, namely Red Cabbage and Beetroot. In 2008 we started a business to supply bulk mashed potato to major food producers. This has grown dramatically and now represents 15% of production.

Tracy adds, “We had a very exciting private visit from International Chef Jamie Oliver who did a taste-test of every product. We were also very privileged to have Prime Minister David Cameron visit our farm during his first week in office, during his national tour, when we were the only Company in Northern Ireland to be visited at that time.”

“We have also won a huge number of awards. These have included the Great Taste Awards, Small Company of the Year in the Food Manufacturer Excellence Awards, The Gold Award with the Grocer for our Red Cabbage and Beetroot – the only Irish company ever to win this award. Another very prestigious award was Company of the Year in the Ulster TV/Business Eye Award, we competed against every company in Northern Ireland and not just other food companies. This year we have won the Regional FWAG (Farming & Wild Life Advisory Group) and the 2011 Nature of Farming Award. These are extremely prestigious environmental awards.”

Martin concludes, “The real core of the success of Mash Direct is the passion and dedication of the staff at every level: production; administration; technical; product development; marketing and management. The result is a company that is able to meet its customers’ demands whether large or small. We respond to consumer trends as well as delivering the personal touch – without compromise to the quality of the product.

Mash Direct will be exhibiting at the following shows

Lunch Old Billingsgate London

29th and 30th September 2011


Country Living Glasgow SECC

17th -20th November 2011


BBC Good Food Show

Birmingham NEC

23rd- 27th November 2011


National Crafts and Design Fair

RDS Dublin

30th November-

4th December 2011

For further information please telephone 02891 878316 or visit www.mashdirect.com


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