Waitrose deal sets Mash Direct on the road to expansion
Co Down food producer Mash Direct has secured a fresh contract for an undisclosed sum with top-end supermarket giant Waitrose.
The deal will see a Mash Direct product on the shelves of 330 stores in England and Wales.
The high-end retailer will be stocking the firm's carrot and parsnip mash in a region which Mash Direct is confident will be a "key growth area".
Mash Direct said the link-up would grow its presence in south-east England, the "heartland of Waitrose".
The company added: "This is a key growth area for Mash Direct as Londoners, in particular, are increasingly looking for high-quality vegetables at affordable prices but don't have the time to prepare them."
Mash Direct supplies more than 5,000 stores around the world. Its products include mashed potato and champ, as well as readymeals.
Last month, the company announced eight products would go on sale in Key Food supermarkets in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the US.
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Director Jack Hamilton stressed that while American consumers were not familiar with this type of convenience food, the brand had been received "exceptionally well". "We are listed to see new retailers in New York and the east coast and are hoping to expand," he added.
Mash Direct's vegetable side dishes are also on sale in Scotland and the Channel Islands. Its crispy vegetable bakes also won a coveted award in the UAE.
Mr Hamilton indicated that the company was planning to extend its range by the end of this year.
"This is such a great opportunity for us to showcase the heritage varieties of vegetables on our family farm, grown specifically for their superior flavour," he said.
"We already have a strong working relationship with Waitrose and supply them in Scotland, the Channel Islands and the UAE, and we are looking forward to building our reputation in these new stores.
"It has taken us 14 years to get onto these shelves. Now we have got our chance, we are going to prove ourselves. We hope to provide our point that we can excel on their shelves.
"We are really excited about taking on new custom.
"I believe that there is a great future ahead for the local agri-food industry if we can seize the opportunities at home and abroad, as well as being able to get out there and market them (the products)."
Mash Direct received its 19th Great Taste Award last year.
It was named Company of the Year at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2016.
The business also won the SIAL Gold Innovation Award in the Middle East.