The Guild's Scottish group had a magnificent visit to Airdrie-based Albert Bartlett and Sons.
The potato packer processes one in five of the spuds sold in the UK and is behind various brands, notably Rooster, for which it has the exclusive worldwide rights.
Ronnie Bartlett is the owner and the man behind the success of Rooster potatoes. The firm, founded by his grandfather using £30 to buy an old bath to boil beetroot, now packs one in five of the potatoes sold in the UK. Mr Bartlett is also behind moves to revitalise the Jersey Royal, having invested £15million in Jersey to develop sales of the early potato that is still hand-sown and picked on the south-facing fields of the Channel Island.
Scottish group organiser Joe Watson (Press & Journal) and fellow Guild members Ewan Pate (Courier), Andrew Arbuckle (The Scotsman) and Doug Niven (BBC Radio Borders and The Gleaner columnist in The Scottish Farmer) were joined by guests Niall Robertson and Philippa Stephen, both of The Scottish Farmer.
They were given a presentation by Bartlett marketing manager John Hicks and its head of innovation and research Gillian Kynoch, who until recently was the Scottish Government's food tsar.
The group was then taken on a tour of the site, where a bag of 2kg potatoes can be packed every second on the processing lines.
Rooster potato sales have gone from zero to 2,000 tonnes a week and now account for half the weekly throughput at Albert Bartlett and Son.
Three excellent stories were up for grabs – including one on the firm’s leading efforts to have potatoes included in the five-a-day fruit and veg regime and its possible expansion to six.
Another concerned the focus on developing new potatoes with taste and flavour to try to address the 8% fall in potato consumption UK-wide. Rooster has gone from sales of zero to 2000 tonnes a week in six years.
There was also the wonderful tale of Bartlett’s plans to launch the Purple Majesty variety commercially in the UK. This spud was bred in the US and is entirely purple, which will certainly add colour to meal times once the first 500 tonne crop is harvested from fields in the Scottish Highlands this autumn.
Gillian Kynoch with the colourful Purple Majesty potato that will be launched commercially in the UK this autumn.
To read the reports from Joe, Philippa and Andrew – which highlight the value of regional visits to journalist members of the Guild – use the following links:
Press & Journal 1
Press & Journal 2
The Scottish Farmer
Rooster potatoes are graded at Albert Bartlett and Son.