Interview: Jeni Meade, Meade Potato Company

25 Nov 2019 | 10.26 am

Interview: Jeni Meade, Meade Potato Company

‘A drive for efficiency is ingrained in the Meade DNA’

25 Nov 2019 | 10.26 am

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Origin Green is Ireland’s national food sustainability programme. It is a voluntary programme led by Bord Bia that brings together farmers, food producers, retailers and food service operators with the common goal of sustainable food production. This month, we speak with Jeni Meade, Marketing Communciations Manager of Meade Potato Company.

What is the background to your business?

Meade Potato Company is an Irish family farm business founded in 1982. We are one of Ireland’s leading growers, packers and distributors of fresh produce to retailers nationwide. While we specialise in growing potatoes, carrots and onions, we source the full range of fresh produce from our team of growers both here and abroad.

Why is sustainability important to you?

There is an aversion to waste and a drive for efficiency ingrained in the Meade DNA. We believe that prioritising sustainability is a great way to grow our business while also protecting our natural resources. In addition to cost and resource savings, it has resulted in innovation in our product and service offering, leading to diversification of the company.

What are the key points of your Origin Green sustainability plan?

We are proud of our zero food waste status and the innovative solutions that enable us to preserve this. We channel our crops and produce effectively, finding the best market between our fresh retail business, our prepared foods division, community food banks and stock feed as required.

Helping the community food bank FoodCloud to develop a gleaning network has enriched our zero food waste process. Working with FoodCloud and corporate volunteers to collect crops leftover after harvesting has proven beneficial in preventing on-farm crop loss, and in creating awareness for the need to value all food produced. Feedback from the volunteers has been positive – the team-building aspect of a morning spent in the field gleaning has been a highlight for many.

Our efforts at introducing energy-efficient measures throughout the facility have helped us reduce our usage per tonne of product produced by 22% from last year, 4% better than our target. The addition of solar panels to our facility next year will help us further improve these targets.

Packaging has also been a real focus for us over the past three years. In 2018, we reduced plastic usage in our potato lines by 46% per tonne of product produced, and increased paper usage by 50%.

What are the key challenges in your sustainability plan?

Despite our successes in this area, packaging is still one of the biggest challenges. There are some easy fixes, such as switching from plastic to paper or cardboard, which we have done, but in many cases, it is problematic to replace plastic due to food safety and packing processes. We are proud to have recently introduced the first 100% compostable paper pillow pack bag of potatoes to the market. This is an innovative replacement for traditional plastic packaging that uses sustainably-sourced paper coated with starch, water-based ink and corn-starch-based netting to produce a 100% compostable bag.

Intended for disposal in the brown bin, this packaging eventually ends up as compost for Ireland’s gardeners and growers, going full circle literally back to its roots. Our Meade 2kg White Potatoes using this 100% compostable bag is being launched nationally with retailer Lidl Ireland in December and we hope consumers get behind our efforts to go green.

What’s next in the roll-out of your plan?

We hope to replace much of our plastic packaging with innovative natural materials like the compostable bag. Perhaps someday we can use potato starch to make some of these new, all-natural packaging options. That would really be the circular economy at its finest!

For more information on the Origin Green programme, visit origingreen.ie

Pictured (l-r): Conor O’Malley and Philip Meade Jr. of Meade Potato Company

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