Craigavon firm develops a range of potatoes that have been grown without artificial fertilisers

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The new Garden Range from Wilson’s has been grown using only natural seaweed

Christmas diners are set to enjoy ‘roasties’ that could prove to healthier and tastier than ever this year as a result of an important investment in innovative potato products by Wilson’s Country in Co Armagh.

The family-owned business in Craigavon, which is led by founder and chairman Angus Wilson, has pioneered the development of an exciting range of new potatoes that have been grown without artificial fertilisers.

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The new Garden Range from Wilson’s, Northern Ireland’s biggest potato processor and packer, has been grown using only natural seaweed and is a response to the growing market trend among consumers for natural foods produced without artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

The seaweed extract used by Wilson’s Country, according to Angus, who founded the company on his family farm in Armagh in 1986, is “hand harvested from the cold, clean waters of the North Atlantic, just off the Irish coastline in Co Donegal.

“The extract is a high quality concentrate of Ascophyllum nodosum that only grows in the cold waters of the North Atlantic,” Angus explains. “Ireland has some of the best seaweed harvest and management regulations in the world, which ensures the sustainability and environmental health of the seaweed ecosystem, now and well into the future.”

The north-west coast of Ireland is said to have some of the purest growth conditions for seaweed due to clean ocean currents sweeping in from the North Atlantic, low industrial activity on the western seaboard of the island.

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The seaweed is cold extracted, which ensures no chemicals are added to the product thereby avoiding damage to its natural properties and also preserving the minerals, nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants naturally contained within the product.

Seaweed is also said to be the best dietary source of iodine, which helps to support the thyroid gland.

When applied to the growing potato plant, the seaweed extract helps to reduce stress, improve nutrition uptake and quality and stimulates the growth of roots.

Overall, it is also becoming clear that seaweed extracts can indirectly influence plant health through beneficially impacting structure and function. After regular applications of the seaweed extract, potato plants have been shown to achieve their full potential and maximise their yield for growers.

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“We have been working closely with farmers to trial and develop this method of growing potatoes and are now able to launch packs onto Irish supermarket shelves,” adds Angus. “While the new range is available from supermarkets such as Dunne’s Stores Ireland, Tesco and the Co-Op, there is limited availability of the new range of potatoes this year. However, we are already planning further production for next season.”

Wilson’s Country has won widespread recognition for its wide range of potato products under its successful and quirky ‘You Say Potato’ brand. It hopes that the innovative seaweed potatoes will help the business as it seeks, in particular, to grow sales outside Northern Ireland.

The market-led company has long been focused on original potato products using around 25 growers here and in the Republic of Ireland. Other innovations in recent years have included sweet potato chips and baby potatoes with garlic butter. Both products were launched in easy-stored pouches that can be cooked quickly and easily. They are also microwaveable in just seven minutes, emphasising the

company’s strategic focus on making potatoes more convenient for consumers.

Products, in addition, have been developed and packaged to minimise waste for consumers from storage. The chilled convenience category has also long been an important target for the company especially in Britain, its most significant external market after the Republic of Ireland.

Angus Wilson, chairman and founder of Wilson’s Country in Craigavon, Northern Ireland’s biggest potato packer and processorAngus Wilson, chairman and founder of Wilson’s Country in Craigavon, Northern Ireland’s biggest potato packer and processor
Angus Wilson, chairman and founder of Wilson’s Country in Craigavon, Northern Ireland’s biggest potato packer and processor

Wilson’s Country has been investing extensively in waste minimisation measures and is considering the application of anaerobic digestion technology that could help

in generating power from waste for the operation and especially its processing activities which are energy intensive.

The processor, which employs around 70 people at its purpose-built processing plant in Craigavon is biggest potato packer and an important supplier to retailers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It has a developing market presence in Britain.

Around 30 different varieties of potatoes are handled annually by Wilson’s, upwards of three million annually. Potatoes are sourced from growers throughout the island and also from overseas. The company, furthermore, a significant supporter of

Comber Early potatoes, which have EU PGI accreditation, and other locally sourced varieties to retailers across Northern Ireland.

As a result of its longstanding success and commitment to new product options for shoppers, Wilson’s is now one of Northern Ireland’s best known food brands.