From Down to Dubai - Mash Direct continues to go from strength to strength

Family-owned Mash Direct has been named as a finalist in the Amazon-sponsored Rural Business Awards. Pictured are Tracy Hamilton, Jack Hamilton, Lance Hamilton and Martin Hamilton

A COMBER-based food producer which counts Dubai as one of the destinations for its mashed potatoes has been named as a finalist for a prestigious national award.

Mash Direct has been named as a finalist of the Best Rural Food and Drink Business Award in the Amazon-sponsored Rural Business Awards.

The family business has grown rapidly since its creation 13 years ago and is a prime example of how a rural business can thrive.

Speaking to the Irish News, founder Tracy Hamilton explained how it all began.

“The idea for Mash Direct came about when my husband Martin thought of setting up a production facility on our farm. We initially set out to make traditional Ulster champ, but we now have a full range of products from varieties of potatoes to vegetable croquettes and bakes. My two sons (Lance and Jack) are the sixth generation of family farmers and our recipes and techniques are inspired by those generations of history. It's amazing how far we've come in such a short period of time and to be nominated for an award like this is a great recognition of lots of people's hard work.”

The company's growth has allowed the family to hire 180 people to work at their base in Comber, filling roles from farming through to product development and administration. After beginning to sell at local markets, Mash Direct now exports across the UK and as far as Dubai and New York.

“You wouldn't expect mash to be popular in Dubai, but they love it," she said.

"Like many rural enterprises we are built on family and that is very important to customers in Dubai. They know they're buying quality. Our products are all gluten-free too, and that's helped us break into the US market and begin exporting to New York. It's a really exciting time seeing Mash Direct grow.”

Mash Direct is up against companies from across the UK as it bids to win the top prize at the awards night on October 5 at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey. Looking ahead Ms Hamilton said it was an honour to even be nominated.

"To be named as a finalist is fantastic. The Rural Business Awards are very important in celebrating the rural economy. Tech start-ups and digital companies get a lot of attention these days, so to have something focusing on rural businesses and families which make their living from the land is great. It's a real honour to be shortlisted and it's something that is a big encouragement to all of our team that their dedication and hard work doesn't go unnoticed.”

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