One of the reasons we started Scottish Scran was to discover and highlight the depths of Scotland’s larder.
We knew the basics, but as we developed more and more recipes, we came across some amazing foodies and suppliers of food and drink that perhaps deserve some extra recognition. Or we just love their products so much we wanted to say hello to them!
Below is our chat with Mackays, one of Scotland’s most well-known jam and marmalade producers, whose products we have been happy to use in our Dundee Cake, Caledonian Cream and Jam Flapjacks. They were kind enough to speak to us and tell us why they do what they do and why Scotland has such an impact on their products.
Tell us who you are, what you do and describe Mackays.
Hello, my name is Rochelle and I am the marketing manager here at Mackays.
Mackays has been built on a reputation of taste, provenance and tradition and as such is Scotland’s best-loved and largest producer of jam and marmalade.
We are also proud custodians of the world-famous Dundee Marmalade and are dedicated to making our products in an authentic way and ensuring a home-made taste.
How would you define Scottish cuisine in three words and why?
Natural, delicious and bountiful.
Scotland is full of amazing produce, from an array of humble berries found on the east coast to the abundant seafood in our seas, beef, honey, bountiful brassica vegetables, dairy and cheeses, oatcakes and shortbread, whiskies in the highlands, gin distilleries and artesian beers, haggis, oils and much more.
The list is endless, and we need to celebrate and embrace our homegrown produce.
What was your favourite Scottish dish growing up, who made it and why was it your favourite?
This is a hard one as I couldn’t name just one dish. I didn’t grow up here but have fallen in love with Scottish produce and food.
I do love a good plate of haggis, neeps and tatties but I also love the seafood here and have recently taken a trip up north where we gorged on Scottish oysters, salmon, mussels and fish. It was so delicious and I believe some of the best seafood in the world!
Tell us the story of Mackays beginning, how did it come to be?
Mackays was originally a carrot manufacturer i.e. we cleaned and bagged carrots. It was owned by two brothers who sold it to United Biscuits in the 1950s. United Biscuits utilized the site’s position, which is amongst the best berry fields in Scotland, and switched to jam making. That jam would end up inside the iconic Jammie Dodger!
The Grant family purchased the site in 1997 as they spotted an opportunity to produce preserves utilising the bountiful produce surrounding them and build a true Scottish preserve and marmalade business.
Mackays, still located in Arbroath, is now Scotland’s best-loved and largest producer of jams and marmalades, and the third-largest brand in the UK preserves category.
We’re dedicated to making products in an authentic way, ensuring a home-made taste that creates demand for over 25 million jars a year and exporting to over 90 countries!
In 2012 Martin Grant took over at the helm as Managing Director and has since driven Mackays Ltd forward making a positive impact on an already well-established market by continually building the brand at home and around the world.
Martin continues to invest in expansion, new product development and brand building to ensure growth and success are maintained without compromising its ethos of making products in the traditional way. This ensures the truly authentic taste that customers return to time and time again.
What makes Scotland the perfect place for what Mackays do?
At the heart of Mackays’ authentic taste are the whole fruit recipes and our original Dundee Marmalade recipe.
Scran note: For those not in the know, rumour has it that in the 18th century a Spanish ship was stranded at Dundee and the grocer’s wife saw the potential to use the Seville oranges aboard to make a tasty preserve to serve at the breakfast table. Dundee marmalade became well-known and sought after! Mackays are now the only remaining producers of it.
Having built long-lasting partnerships with Scottish fruit growers, Mackays sources all of its strawberries, raspberries and blackberries from Perthshire, the ‘fruit punnet’ of Scotland.
Fertile soils coupled with temperate climes allow crops to be grown for longer, resulting in a stronger, more developed flavour that makes Mackay’s jams so unique.
Whether it’s Scottish strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants or citrus fruits such as oranges from Seville, all the fruit is carefully sourced to ensure the highest quality.
Ensuring this quality is at the forefront of everything we do, Mackays’ products are free from artificial colours, flavours and additives – making the range suitable for vegans, vegetarians, coeliac and kosher diets.
What’s the hardest part of doing what Mackays do?
Having to taste the best jams and marmalades every day ensuring every jar tastes the same… 🙂
What’s the best part of what Mackays do?
Celebrating and representing Scotland, its produce and people.
What do people not know about running a company such as yours?
The amount of hands-on work required to produce a product with that homemade taste whilst staying true to our values.
We still create our products in small batches to achieve that quality homemade taste, using steam-heated copper-bottomed pans and a rolling boil method.
What do people get wrong when using marmalade, any top tips?
Don’t just think it can go on toast!
It’s great on a cheeseboard matched with a sharp cheddar or blue cheese, fantastic in a bread and butter pudding, mixed into a hot toddy, added to your favourite natural yoghurt, shaken into a cocktail or even added to your cheese toastie.
What’s next for Mackays?
Watch this space; we are always looking to grow our range and try different flavour combinations!
Other than Mackays, of course, who or what are your favourite Scottish products/producers?
The wealth of Scottish whisky distillers, there are so many excellent ones but in particular, I do like a dram of Bruichladdich.
A HUGE thank you to Rochelle and the team at Mackays! You can find all of their products on the Mackays website or do go and say hello to them on their Instagram and Facebook profiles. We can thoroughly recommend their Chilli Jam and their amazing Orange Marmalade with Whisky, yum!
Next time we speak to Callum from the award-winning Bay Fish and Chips, recommended in Lonely Planets Ultimate Eat List, a guide of just 500 of the best eateries in the world!
Which Scottish foodie, server or producer would you like us to talk to? Let us know and we’ll drop them a line!