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Coronavirus: Mash Direct begins home deliveries with NHS discount boxes


Jack Hamilton of Mash Direct

Jack Hamilton of Mash Direct

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Jack Hamilton of Mash Direct

Co Down fresh food producer Mash Direct has said it's countering a loss in hospitality sales by fast-tracking a new home delivery service.

Mash Direct, run by the Hamilton family, is now selling its entire range of products through various assortment boxes to those in lockdown all over NI.

Jack Hamilton, sixth generation of the farming family and chief operating officer at Mash Direct, said: "We had the idea for e-commerce a year ago but we've had to pivot the business and readjust quickly because of the pandemic and started it early.

"With restaurants closing it caused challenges but the other side of that is retail demand is going up."

The company embarked on a soft launch of the online shop recently and in one week sales increased rapidly, Mr Hamilton said.

"It went from two boxes to 700 very quickly and that's because there is demand for vegetables right now because it's a great way to get some good, immune boosting food."

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The company's food boxes retail from £20, with some proceeds from general sales contributing towards a Feed the Heroes Box which retails at almost 40% less in price than general boxes.

"We began deliveries to the NHS two weeks ago and in the first week we delivered 1,000 packs. The last thing an NHS worker wants to do is queue up to buy food after a long shift. It's a really convenient way to get nutritious food and so far the feedback has been incredible."

The delivery service has seen the company go full circle, back to its roots of home delivery back in the early 1900s, said Mr Hamilton.

But he said he wasn't sure the company would be able to make good its losses from supplying the hospitality trade, which has stopped completely due to the lockdown.

He said: "Right now it is really difficult to say if this will cover the loss from hospitality because we don't quite know what the new normal is but we are in a good position. We're still a family farm and we're not locked into a way of doing things so we're keeping agile in this fast-moving environment and if we need to turn on our heels and innovate, we can."

In the year to February 2019, the company reported turnover of £18.4m. However, it was forced to write off stock worth £600,000 which had been produced for a US retailer after a delay in the listing of the products.

Mr Hamilton said exporting is not a focus at the moment. He added: "Right now we're not focusing on our exporting because we want to support local communities and make sure food security is here.

"We don't want to send what we have abroad when it is needed here. I do believe after all of this there will be a lot more focus on provenance and supporting local.

"As a business we have to keep in mind we're in a challenging economic situation. We need to keep our prices competitive while getting nutritious food to people."