Two of our favourite things came together recently when our love of potatoes and New York City collided in a mash-up of product launch brilliance. Our native New Yorker, Claire Hamilton, crossed the pond with Mash Direct to help launch the world's greatest vegetables for customers in the US, bringing the Comber spud to North America for the first time ever. How did it go? Over to you, Claire!
All great entrepreneurial stories start from an idea. As is the case for one of my favourite businesses, Mash Direct. And I'm not just saying that because they're family.
Mash Direct is the brainchild of a conversation between my father-in-law, Martin Hamilton and a close friend on how to bring more value to his vegetables.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so the pair sought out to find a way to bring innovation to Martin's sixth-generation family farm. Over a few drinks sprouted the idea to turn the farm's veg into fresh, ready-made side dishes, just like their grandmothers would make.
It was a recipe for success - famous Comber potatoes and vegetables, six generations of farming expertise, passion for quality food, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and supportive family that believes in the Mash Direct vision.
Fast-forward to 2018, Mash Direct has launched its award-winning range of Comber-grown vegetable side dishes to shelves in New York. Just in time to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, a day when every American wants to be Irish.
I was over the moon excited to join my husband and Mash Direct Director, Jack Hamilton, on the journey to launch Mash Direct in the USA. As were many of our friends and family across the pond who were already loyal fans, having had the opportunity to try Mash Direct at our wedding last year. It was particularly special for me to bring my two worlds together.
As a native New Yorker, it gave me such pride to support my family as they launched their business into my hometown. I believe that Mash Direct shares the same passion, drive and energy that has made New York the hub of business innovation and success. There is a contagious buzz when you land in New York, just like there is when you head over to the Comber farm to hear the latest Mash Direct craic from Martin.
We kicked-off the official launch at the FarePlate event in New York, hosted by IrishCentral with Food and Wine Ireland at Houston Hall on Sunday, 11 March 2018. Jack, our friend Mollie and I donned our Mash Direct-branded aprons and were eager to see the response to our launch in New York.
The products spoke for themselves at the event. People flocked to the stand, eager to try fresh Northern Irish vegetables and share their love for Ireland. It was heart-warming to hear attendees share their family stories of emigrating to the US and how they look forward to one day visiting their ancestral birthplace. Like many Americans, we cling to that small percentage of Irish heritage because it makes us feel connected to our family roots. And what better way to feel connected to our lineage than by food.
When asked if they could purchase the products in the States, it was exciting to be able to say "Yes, you can!" and direct them to their local store. Starting with the north east of the US, eight of Mash Direct's products (including family favourites such as Potato Croquettes, Mashed Potato and Potato Rosti) are now available for purchase at Key Food, Food Emporium, Brooklyn Fare and SuperFresh.
This is just the beginning of this US success story. It is exciting to already have Mash ambassadors telling the story and enjoying the food. The love for potatoes extends across generations, cultures and now, even oceans. Food brings people together, and I look forward to seeing Mash Direct bring their fresh veg wholesomeness around the world.