Crisp success

Mackie’s at Taypack is taking the flavours of Scotland around the world

Mackie’s at Taypack was formed in 2009 from a joint venture between Mackie’s of Scotland and the Taylor Family, whose potato packing business, Taypack, was the second biggest of its kind in the UK. By combining the heritage brand of Mackie’s, which has been producing luxury dairy ice cream from Aberdeenshire since 1986, with Taypack’s unrivalled potato sourcing expertise, Mackie’s crisps are today representing Scotland around the world.

The business was founded out of a desire from both parties to enter the booming snacking industry, and bringing the two partners together in a 50/50 agreement provided the perfect platform upon which to launch the foray. Taypack initially mainly handled production, but by 2013 success had been strong and it was decided that the business focus needed solidifying, so all management, Mackies Issue 114 bsales and marketing were brought into the business along with a further 25 per cent share. “It very quickly got to the stage where our customer base was growing, the brand was growing rapidly and both parties agreed it was important that we could focus this from one organisation,” explains Rebecca Russell, Global Brand Manager. “So whilst we’re still associated very closely with Mackie’s and use the brand under license, everything is managed from the Taypack site.”

At the heart of Mackie’s Crisps is its heritage. Both founding families have a strong farming background, where fresh produce and quality ingredients are key values. “Maintaining the taste of the potato in our crisps is very important to the brand,” Rebecca explains. “We use a gentle cooking method, which involves cooking the product at a much lower temperature and for a longer period of time than most other crisp manufacturers would. This is unique within the industry and creates a distinctive crunch and drier texture.”

Scottish provenance is also a major part of the brand. Not only is this illustrated by being the only crisp branded product manufactured in the country, but also in its flavours – many of which are inspired by traditional Scottish tastes. Haggis and cracked black pepper, Flame-grilled Aberdeen Angus and Whisky and Haggis all feature in the line up and is something that has helped the business establish a strong export market.

International sales currently make up around 15 per cent of Mackie’s at Taypack’s total turnover and represent a key growth area. “We currently export to 17 countries around the world, with China, Singapore and Canada being the biggest,” outlines Rebecca. “Scottish food and drink in general is perceived around the world as being of high quality, so there’s almost a ready made market for us to tap into. Canada seems to have quite a strong affinity with Scotland so we really push the Scottish heritage in our marketing there. In terms of China there is high demand for imported products universally as they are trusted more than locally produced brands. Of course, with such a large population this represents a huge opportunity for any international brand.”

Being able to tap into market trends is not something confined to Mackie’s at Taypack’s export business either. In January 2016, in response to changing snacking habits in the UK, the company launched its first range of popcorn products. “We know that health is high up on the agenda, not just from a consumer and retail point of view, but also coming from the government and other mackies Issue 114 cbodies putting pressure on the food industry,” Rebecca explains. “We also undertook focus groups with our shoppers to understand not only what they expected from the market, but also from Mackie’s as a specific brand. Ultimately, we needed to work out which direction was most suitable to the more premium brand we represent.”

The current line up of popcorn snacks consists of four flavours: lightly sea-salted, sweet and salted, butterscotch and scotch bonnet chilli pepper. Deciding upon flavours and packaging also benefited from focus groups, and this close attention to what customers are looking for is clearly paying off. Mackie’s popcorn is now listed in both Sainsbury’s and Tesco in Scotland, and come July will be appearing in Asda superstores as well.

Current production facilities for Mackie’s crisps are located in Perthshire. “We moved to our new site in Errol in 2013 after we outgrew the original factory,” Rebecca says. “The new site used to be an old brickworks and has a long history in the area so ties in well with our heritage. Crucially, at the moment we’re only using a portion of the 11 acres available to us so we have plenty of room to expand as the business grows.”

Focused strategy
Growing the business is a clear objective for the company, and whilst tackling changing consumer tastes across numerous markets can be challenging, Mackie’s at Taypack sees a wealth of opportunities to explore as it moves forward. Already on its way to becoming well established in the Scottish market, coming months will see a more focused strategy to further develop the brand south of the border and in the wholesale and food service sectors. “It is a tough market to be in, snacking trends are always changing and its also a very promotional driven industry, so staying on top of our pricing whilst keeping up with trends is crucial to remaining competitive,” Rebecca concludes. “Continuing to innovate with our products and cementing our position in global markets are core to our future.”