This is no hollow marketing ploy. Three wind turbines – referred to as Mackie’s, Ice and Cream – have been built on the farm over the past three years and have the capacity to produce 2.5MW of energy. When the wind is up they generate three times more energy than the company requires, with any excess sold to renewable energy supplier Good Energy. When the wind fails to blow, Mackie’s currently buys in energy from Scottish Hydro, but the company intends to become entirely self-sufficient next year with the installation of a biogas plant.
This isn’t some Damascene conversion either. A smaller turbine installed by Mac’s father, Maitland, powered the former piggery unit until 1997. And over the past 25 years, Mackie’s has planted 120 acres of deciduous trees and farmed 1,500 acres of arable land by sowing directly into the soil without ploughing, allowing carbon to build up naturally.
“We like doing things ourselves,” says Mackie. “We get great satisfaction from producing everything from scratch. And as our customers are switched on to green issues, it helps with the marketing, too.”
The business currently generates £18m in sales each year and is growing at an annual rate of 15%, a figure Mackie hopes to maintain during the next two years by broadening its distribution. Mackie’s is already a well-known brand in Scotland and exports to South Korea and the UAE. The next push will see it diversify into crisps.
The top-end crisps market is a well-trodden path for farmers, with brands such as Tyrrells and Burts Chips proving consumers will pay a premium for quality crisps. Mackie is not intimidated, believing the company’s green credentials will prove a strong point of difference in the marketplace. There’s certainly a nicely virtuous circle about the move. The biogas plant will power the crisp factory, while any waste oil will be turned into biodiesel. Mackie also intends to grow his own potatoes and supply his own rapeseed oil.
The temptation, from a business perspective, is to see Mackie as a head-in-the-clouds hippy. But Mac is shrewd enough to appreciate that the commercial benefits of being green extend way beyond altruistic pleasure.
“They’re of great marketing benefit,” he says of the wind turbines. Financially, they’re “reasonably attractive as well” and no doubt will continue to be so, considering fuel prices. Looking forward, Mackie even has plans for solar panels and electric cars and tractors.
Greenest company in Britain? It may not be such a far-fetched idea after all.