One of Scotland’s top food brands has recorded bumper chocolate and take-home ice cream sales as it reinvests millions into its sustainability drive.
In the year ending May 31 2020, Mackie’s of Scotland saw its revenue increase 1% to £16.7m and operating profits increasing 61% to £3.4m. Chocolate sales increased by 46% after recipe refinements helped secure further supermarket listings and buyer loyalty.
As the family firm began construction of a £4.5m low-carbon refrigeration system that will become one of the most advanced in Europe, it also saw net assets increase by 18% to £18.59m – a sign of the huge level of investment back into the business and its green ambitions.
Mac Mackie, managing director of the business and one of three sibling owners has heralded the firm’s performance, highlighting that the figures factor in the first three months of lockdown.
He said: “These stellar results are made all the more impressive when we consider that we were “competing” against the previous financial year, which accounted for the record heatwave summer of 2018.
“We broke all our own records then – and thought it would be very difficult to match that in the following year.
“With the first lockdown period in March, and the last quarter of the financial year, we initially witnessed a panic buying rush as the public filled freezers and baskets with staples - and not ice cream. For a few weeks, demand for take-home tubs of ice cream fell and our foodservice accounts sadly ground to a near halt, including temporary closure of our own 19.2 parlour in Aberdeen.
“However, we are very fortunate that ice cream sales quickly recovered, with increased demand as consumers seek a little luxury or pick me up treat while in lockdown at home.
“To see revenue increase, by even a small margin, is a credit to everyone in our team, we’ve had to be fleet of foot, to be able to keep working, at home and remotely, while creating and incorporating the many new safety procedures required. Despite these challenges, we launched a new pack format, introducing 'The Mini Collection', four single-serving sized tubs of ice cream in our two biggest selling flavours. It’s been our most successful new launch in years, tapping into demand for grab and go – and perhaps an ideal format for families working and home-schooling.
“It’s especially pleasing to see chocolate perform so well too. Since the end of this reported financial year we launched our first new flavour since the launch in 2014 – Orange – which has also been received very favourably – and we’ve been able to donate more than 10,000 bars to hospitals, ambulance bases, care homes and call centres.”
A real national living wage employer, Mackie’s staff number increased to 91, (from 83), with ten additional staff recruited for ice cream production, to help manage increased demand along with the need to work for longer hours in smaller groups, to ensure full distancing. Its parlour, 19.2 in Aberdeen managed to continue service with home delivery operation, Deliveroo, however like many outlets the parlour has had to close during some lockdown periods.
Mackie’s, which is based on the fourth-generation Westertown Farm in Aberdeenshire continues to invest profits into the long term sustainability of the business, which is already carbon positive thanks in part to four major wind turbines and a 10-acre solar farm, once Scotland’s largest.
This coming year will see it complete the construction of its new low-carbon refrigeration system, the first of its kind in Scotland and one of just a handful across Europe to utilise new technology that uses biomass heat and ammonia – and is projected to reduce Mackie’s energy use by up to 80%.
The Aberdeenshire brand has had a strong start to 2021, with a recent study from Kantar Worldpanel showing that UK demand for premium ice cream has surged during the last year, with Mackie’s experiencing a 37% growth in sales, second only to one other premium brand, as consumers seek “moments of joy”.
Mackie's Traditional real dairy ice cream, its original flavour, was created by the former milk retail company when semi-skimmed milk became popular, leaving the company with an excess of cream on the farm.
Over the years it has become Scotland's best-selling ice cream and has made Mackie's one of the UK's top brands for luxury ice cream, gaining a cache of awards, including “simply delicious” the definition given to one star from the Great Taste Awards 2020.
The fourth-generation family farm is in North East Scotland – and Mackie's still produces all its ice cream using fresh milk and cream from their dairy herd on the farm.
The company's ‘sky to scoop’ ethos sees it create everything from milk to its packaging on site, powered predominantly by its farm produced renewable energy.