Mackie’s of Scotland: Tasting Innovation and Ice Cream

The following is a written version of the audio above, though the audio provides sound clips and interviews from the tour itself (recommended).

Over 200 journalists from 37 countries met this September for the annual IFAJ congress in Dyce, Scotland, a suburb of the booming granite city of Aberdeen.  The theme this year was innovation, and being one of the attendees, I can say without a doubt that our hosts exemplified innovation in entrepreneurship, sustainability and the ever-growing need to adapt. One of our first tours, was incredibly inspiration in all fronts of business management, but particularly in their ability to diversify and change for evolving consumer demands.

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Mackie’s of Scotland is located in Aberdeenshire, where it maintains roughly 650 ha of arable land, 300 dairy cows, three wind turbines, solar panels and its very own processing capabilities. Established in1912, it is now a fourth generation family business managed by Mac Mackie along with his sisters Karin and Kirstin and 70 staff members. It’s evolved from milk retail to one of the best selling luxury ice cream manufacturers in the United Kingdom and has no diversified into ice cubes, chocolate, chips and energy production.

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword amongst consumers. It’s also incredibly important to the Mackie family, who supplies much of their own energy through natural, renewable resources.

The Mackies’ first wind turbine was installed in 2005, with two more added in 2007. Excess energy is sold to a 100% renewable energy supplier, who supplies it to the grid. While we were at the farm, we had the opportunity to see the windmills up close and hear more about their contribution to the farm.

In addition to wind energy, the farm also harvests solar energy, has a strict zero water waste policy (with much of the water returning to the land in a manure slurry supplied by the dairy cows) and a recycling program that includes the plants and offices alike. Even the ice cream containers play a role in sustainability! In the past, Mackie’s sourced its ice cream tubs from Sweden, which meant they were moved over 1750 miles.

mackie's of scotland ice creamBut, thanks to an over £1m investment in injection moulding technology, the 1 and 2L tubs now travel 200 meters. This saves the farm, and its consumers, thousands of ‘food miles’ each year.

And, what would a tour of an ice cream dairy be without a little sampling? While we were there we had the chance to try some of Mackie’s signature ice cream products.

The ice cream was amazing, and likely one of the highlights of my day. But did I mention the chips?

mackie's chips Mackie’s flavours are out of the ordinary, with such inventions as Aberdeen Angus, Whiskey and Haggis and Venison and Cranberry. They are crispy, delicious, and without the greasy after-taste of so many of their competitors. This side of the business was a joint endeavour between Mackie’s and the Taylors, another farming family, with extenive experience with potatoes. Launched in 2009, the crisp range now has a turnover of 4M pounds and are available in 20 countries across the globe.

The Mackie’s brand hasn’t stopped with innovation and diversification. The company has now started making their own inclusions for the ice cream, and is branching into the chocolate industry (if you get a chance try the honeycomb flavour).

It’s unlikely I’ll forget touring the Mackie Farm, as it was an incredible reminder of what is possible if only we acknowledge our fear of change and try it anyway.

Thank you for listening (or reading), and as they say in Scotland, haste ye back.

 

Debra Murphy

Debra Murphy is a Field Editor based out of central Alberta, where she never misses a moment to capture with her camera the real beauty of agriculture. Follow her on Twitter @RealAg_Debra

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