Meet the maker: Lance Hamilton

Burns ready: Lance Hamilton with neeps and tatties. The firm grows its own veg

Mash Direct’s commercial o­fficer talks convenience

What’s your role?

I am the chief commercial officer at Mash Direct and I have worked here for 14 years as part of the family.

What’s a typical day for you?

There’s never really one day that’s exactly the same. I will tend to come in to assess the sales and catch up with customers and review our performance. We’ll also communicate with the rest of the team across the UK and Ireland and catch up about their various strategies and work with them to achieve our goals.

What’s Mash Direct’s story?

We were founded back in 2004 through the need to diversify the family farm when we used to sell vegetables to the local markets in Belfast and Dublin. After a few business ideas, we decided to stick with what we knew and create a ready prepared side dish in ‘champ’ – which is an Irish dish made from potatoes, spring onions and scallions – for the local area and the rest, as they say, is history.

What sets Mash Direct apart from the competition?

We grow our own vegetables on our family farm so we have complete control over the raw materials from fi eld to fork. This means all the raw materials are all kept and processed on the one site to help keep us sustainable.

What’s in your range at the moment?

At the moment, it’s all things seasonal with roast potatoes, red cabbage, brussels sprouts, honey-glazed parsnips, just all the vegetables that you might find on your Christmas plates. We also do a range of party food through the months of December and January for its various celebrations.

What kind of consumers are purchasing Mash Direct products?

It’s sort of a wide-angle lens when it comes to our consumers, a lot of mothers will use our products to ween children on to solids but we’ll also aim for young professionals and students who need something quick and easy for dinner that’s affordable. I think it’s good to be able to say that we don’t have a defined target here, we have this wide-angled view that we can come at. It helps to keep that in mind when developing the product range.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Being a member of the sales team, it’s seeing the product on shelf and getting the reaction from the end consumer. Seeing a product that started out as an idea on a whiteboard develop to the end product, and then seeing the rewards in the sales and consumer feedback – that’s probably the highlight for me.

What’s your personal favourite Mash Direct product?

At the moment, it’s probably the Curry Chips that we’ve just launched and they have been doing particularly well from the offset. There’s also the Carrot and Parsnip Mash which is technically the first one we ever made with it being my grandmother’s own traditional recipe. The whole family grew up with it and now its turned into one of our best-selling lines so I would say that those two are definitely up there at the moment.

How important is the Scottish convenience channel to Mash Direct?

It’s massively important for us, we’ve seen a lot of growth there and it very much aligned with what we already knew from working over here. We’ll work collaboratively with buying groups from Scottish independent stores through to multiples to help cater to the Scottish customer. We also love coming over to Scotland for events such as the Royal Highland, which is one of the highlights of the year for us.

What’s on the agenda for the future?

Our goal for the future is also the goal we have at all times, to ensure we have a product range that is with the times and that’s what we want to continue pursuing domestically and internationally. We have such a vast range of products and it’s ensuring they’re the right set for the marketplace.

How big an opportunity is Burns Night?

Burns Night is one of the biggest nights of our year really. We work closely with Scottish retailers on it with marketing campaigns for our unique products such as Burns Bites, which we work on collaboratively with Macsween, as well as our Neeps and Tatties dual pack which is a perfect solution for a Burns supper.