Pioneers in sustainability in line for major UK food industry awards

Downpatrick’s Finnebrogue Artisan and Mash Direct from Comber are in line to win major awards in the influential Grocer New Product Awards 2021, now regarded as the symbol of innovation and among the most coveted awards in the UK food and grocery sector.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:00 am

Downpatrick’s Finnebrogue Artisan and Mash Direct from Comber are in line to win major awards in the influential Grocer New Product Awards 2021, now regarded as the symbol of innovation and among the most coveted awards in the UK food and grocery sector.

FInnebrogue Artisan, the UK’s leader in plant-based foods, is in the running to lift the main award in the Vegan/Plant Based Ready Meals and Centres category. Finnebrogue was chosen for its Naked Without the Cluck 2 Chicken Kievs, a product made entirely without chicken.

The company is also widely known for its successful ‘Naked’ brand of bacon, pork sausages and hams, which are made without chemical additives, and for its commitment to the environment. The Naked brand is listed by most of the main UK supermarkets.

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The industry leading Hamilton farm family behind the pioneering Mash Direct in Comber, left, Martin, Tracy, Jack and Lance Hamilton

Based on the Hamilton family farm, Mash Direct is a leading supplier of vegetable sides and convenience foods to supermarkets and other food retailers in the UK, Ireland, the US, Asia and the Middle East. It is shortlisted in Potatoes and Chips. It’s among the most successful food exporters.

They are among global players in food processing such as Cadbury, Mr Kipling, Weetabix, Birds Eye, Coca Cola Zero, Galaxy and Pukka Pies in the various award categories.

Winning a Grocer New Product award is often the route to significant sales among UK food retailers.

The two local contenders also share a dedication to sustainability and are both committed to the Foundation Earth initiative developed by Denis Lynn, the founder of Finnebrogue, who died earlier in the year.

Foundation Earth has brought together two of the world’s leading systems for measuring the environmental impact of an individual food product and communicating the information to shoppers clearly via a traffic light style system and a front-of-pack score.

Mash Direct, last week, announced an innovative line in ecological packaging that allows shoppers to choose foods that have been produced using sustainable practices.

The enterprise is one of the first UK companies to sign up to the Foundation Earth pilot scheme, aiming to drive awareness within food and drink and to share a vision for the future encouraging more environmentally friendly innovation and sustainable buying choices.

The award-winning company was started by Martin and Tracy Hamilton at their family-run farm in Comber, in 2004. The Hamilton’s began farming the fields around Strangford Lough back in the 1800s and the land has been passed down through six generations, bringing with it a wealth of understanding and knowledge of the area and growing conditions.

After successfully growing and selling vegetables for 25 years, Martin, who is a fifth-generation son of the soil, and Tracy, a marketing expert, decided on a new direction, combining traditional tastes with modern convenience and innovation.

Today, Mash Direct is a family affair with Martin, Tracy and sons, Lance and Jack all helping on the journey to become a national, household name. From the initial dream of making traditional ‘Ulster’ Champ for convenience in 2004, the Hamilton family has grown Mash Direct into a national brand, employing 245 people.

A small factory was developed on their farm to capture a traditional cooking style, specially designing and building a number of pieces of equipment including a unique masher and steam cooker.

The bespoke equipment ensures that the vegetables can be steamed gently to retain optimum nutrients and capture the fresh harvested flavour and texture.

The Foundation Earth product scores will initially be shown on five products: Mashed Potato, Champ, Carrots and Parsnips, Mashed Turnip and Colcannon.

The scoring system analyses the whole life-cycle of a product, such as mashed potato, as opposed to using secondary data to estimate the environmental impact of an entire product group. This will allow customers to directly compare the sustainable credentials of two competitor products and make an informed decision.

Jack Hamilton, Mash Direct’s chief executive, says: “We are excited to receive four A and 1 B rating on selected products in our range, this is a very positive new addition to our packaging. It pushes the boundaries for us as a company too, as it drives us to be as environmentally sustainable as we possibly can across all aspects of our product lifecycle.

“The advantage for us is that all our products are grown and manufactured on site ‘from field to fork’ so we have full control over that element of their journey. Our ambition is to improve on our sustainability year on year.

“This will ensure that there is provenance and transparency in the food system, driving positive change not only at Mash Direct but also, we hope, with others,” he adds.

Cliona Howie, Foundation Earth chief executive, adds: “It’s motivating to work alongside forward-thinking brands like Mash Direct which is one of the first to deliver our front-of-pack Eco Impact scores allowing consumers to quickly and simply understand the impact linked to their food choices.”

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